Internal Shas polls indicate that a horse race is developing between the Sephardic Hareidi party and the Bayit Yehudi party, with at least five Knesset seats in the balance. As a result, said political observers, Shas has decided to attack Bayit Yehudi and its chairman, Naftali Bennett, in the hope that it can sway dithering voters to cast their vote for Shas.
The anti-Bayit Yehudi campaign focuses on Bennett as “only caring about the settlements,” ignoring the social, economic, and religious needs of residents of the “center of the country,” a Shas spokesperson said. Referring to reports that Bennett intends to ask for the Interior or Housing Ministries as his price for a coalition deal with the Likud – two ministries that Shas currently holds – the spokesperson said that it was fine for Bennett to seek those posts, “but he is clearly working against Shas by declaring his intentions at this time.
“He needs to think about what happens after the elections and whom he will have to work with,” the spokesperson added. “If he wants to imply that Shas only cares about a specific constituency, as he has mentioned, the same could be said of him.” In recent days, Bennett has called for his party to replace Shas at the Interior, Housing, and Religions Ministries. Various polls have shown both Shas and Bayit Yehudi as the most likely candidates for the third-largest Knesset presence, after Likud and Labor.
The anti-Bayit Yehudi campaign is likely to be similar to other campaigns Shas is currently running against Yisrael Beiteinu and the Likud, which states that those parties will encourage assimilation by allowing large numbers of non-Jews to continue to enter Israel for work.
Aryeh Deri, one of the three leaders of Shas, said that he was “sorry that Bennett is acting in this way. I believe he is a good person and I congratulated him when he won leadership of Bayit Yehudi. I think he is making a mistake in going against Shas. As religious parties we do not have the luxury of being able to fight with each other.”