Rabbi Ovadia Yosef: Vote Shas So We Can 'Bend Netanyahu'

Shas' spiritual leader tells yeshiva students to vote for his party so that Shas can "dictate terms to the government."

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Elad Benari,

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef
Israel news photo: Flash 90

The war of words between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the Shas party continues.

Army Radio reported that Shas' spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, called yeshiva students on Saturday night to stop their studies on election day to vote for his party and recruit other voters to do as well, so that Shas members can "dictate terms to the government."

"I appeal to yeshiva students - let them get up from their studies and go from house to house," Rabbi Ovadia said, according to Army Radio.

"Then we will have a lot of seats and we can dictate to them that we will not enter a government without so and so ..." he added. "The more seats we have, the more we can bend the Prime Minister. They will not have a coalition without us."

Netanyahu has hinted several times over the past week that in the next government he would appoint a Likud minister to the Interior and Housing Ministries, instead of a member of Shas which held both portfolios in the outgoing coalition.

At the opening of the Likud's campaign this week, Netanyahu said the Housing Ministry “will no longer be controlled by 'sectorial interests.'"

He added, "The Ministry is not providing equitable service right now, and this cannot continue. In the same way that we reduced the prices on cellphone service, we will reduce the cost of housing.”

The war of words continued when Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Lieberman said in an interview that Shas would receive the Infrastructures and Tourism portfolios in the next government.

Lieberman appeared to relish in provoking Shas, saying that Infrastructures and Tourism were "very nice" portfolios, and that as Tourism Minister, Shas's Ariel Atias "will be able to travel all over the world."

One of Shas's leaders, Aryeh Deri, later responded to Lieberman's remarks by saying that "Yisrael Beytenu has carried out a hostile takeover of Likud. From the party of the people, Likud has become an arrogant, smug party that represents Russians and whites."

Last Saturday night, after Netanyahu blamed Shas in a television interview for failing to promote necessary housing reforms, Rabbi Ovadia criticized the Prime Minister over his intention to take the Housing Ministry from his party, saying, "They want to take away the poor man's lamb. What did the minister do, not only to Sephardim but also to Ashkenazim? There were constantly Housing Ministers who did nothing, just sat at home and smoked a hookah. Our Minister (Ariel Atias) worked day and night to build new homes."