Yishai Beats Out Deri for Top Shas Spot

After much speculation, the Shas Knesset candidate list shows Eli Yiishai retaining the top spot

Contact Editor
David Lev,

The Shas leadership
The Shas leadership
Boaz Lev Ari

As the Thursday night deadline for finalizing their Knesset lists draws closer, the last parties that have not yet submitted the names of their candidates are making their final arrangements. Among the last parties to file was Shas, which did so Thursday afternoon.

The party, which counts among its voters Hareidi and religious Israelis from Sephardic and Middle Eastern backgrounds, is currently being led by three people. Current Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who has led the party for most of the past decade, was instructed by Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef to share the leadership with the wildly popular Aryeh Deri.

Deri, who in the past has led the party and held the post of Interior Minister, is seen by many in Yishai's camp as an interloper who, after spending time in prison on corruption charges, is trying to take over Shas, after Yishai worked hard to ensure the party's electoral successes in the past several elections. However, as Shas is subject to Rabbi Yosef's decision, Yishai has not publicly spoken about the situation. It is likely, however, that he presented his case to Rabbi Yosef, who, in response, appointed current Construction Minister Ariel Attias as the third leader of the party, ostensibly to keep the peace between the Deri and Yishai factions.

There had been much speculation as to whether Yishai or Deri would be listed as the top name in the Shas list. The list submitted to Knesset officials has Yishai as the top name, followed by Deri and Attias. Besides not wanting to insult Yishai, observers speculated, Rabbi Yosef placed the current Interior Minister first because it is unlikely that Deri will be approved to serve as a minister, as he served time on corruption charges. By placing Yishai at the top of the list, Shas will be able to avoid unwelcome publicity whereby either a Deri appointment to a ministry is challenged, or Shas is unable o put its party leader up for a ministerial position.

According to a poll released Wednesday night by Channel Ten, Shas is likely to garner ten seats in the upcoming Knesset elections.