Among many voters in the National Religious community, the name of the Shas party is political anathema – and much of the credit for that goes to Aryeh Deri, the new/old leader of the party, who is back together with Ministers Eli Yishai and Ariel Attias.
As a member of the government of Yitzchak Rabin in 1993, Deri, who then led Shas, did not oppose the Olso Accords.
As a result, Deri got the reputation of being a supporter of Oslo, ruining Shas' chances with many right wing voters of Sephardic and Mizrachi (Middle Eastern) background who might otherwise consider voting for the party.
Steven Bayme of the American Jewish Committee put it this way: "Deri was a key player in the Oslo Accords signed with the Palestinians."
Although that perception of Deri and Shas is deeply embedded among right wing Israelis, Danny Seideh, an advisor to Deri, says that the perception is wrong. Deri never supported Oslo, he told Arutz Sheva, and Shas is a top advocate for Judea and Samaria.
“The settlements are part of this country, and in fact are the real Land of Israel,” Seideh said. “Aryeh Deri believes this, and has always believed it. Shas never supported Oslo. Shas is guided by the Supreme Rabbinical Council, and they never supported Oslo either.”
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, head of the Council and the chief spiritual advisor of Shas, is known to be very right wing politically, he claimed. “It could be there were some votes on which they abstained, but that is not the same as supporting Oslo,” he said. Rabbi Yosef, however, was a believer in giving up "land for peace" in the hope that it would actually bring peace and save lives.
Shas joined with Meretz and Labor in 1992 to form the Rabin government that forged the Oslo Accords. Without the six Knesset seats of Shas, the 62-member government coalition would have fallen and the Accords would not have progressed.
As Gideon Levy wrote in Haaretz (Dec. 3, '07), "Deri's Shas was not a left-wing party, but it... refrained from undermining the first Oslo agreement."