In what may have been another chapter in the recent war of words between Shas and the Likud Beytenu, Housing Minister Ariel Atias (Shas) criticized the Likud on Sunday for speaking out against comments made by President Shimon Peres regarding peace with the Arabs.
In a speech he gave Sunday, Peres said that Israel had “no choice” but to pursue the “two state solution with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, because he is the only Palestinian leader who agrees with many of the basic things Israel seeks in a settlement.”
Peres added that a “final status settlement with the Palestinians must be completed without delay. There is clear majority among Israelis for the two state solution. I know Abu Mazen for 30 years. We do not support every word he has said and we have some criticism, but I know the reality, and the reality is that Abu Mazen is the one and only Arab leader who has said that he is in favor of peace and against terror,” Peres said.
Atias, who debated Environment Minister Gilad Erdan of the Likud on Channel 2 News, said that it was inappropriate for the Likud to offend the president and asserted the party was being hypocritical by doing so.
"All in all Peres simply called for two states for two peoples. This is exactly the position presented by the Prime Minister during his speech at Bar Ilan University. It is the president's right [to express his position]," said Atias.
Erdan replied that Peres is choosing to express a personal political opinion which is detached from the position of the Israeli public. He then asked Atias whether Shas has changed its position after supporting the Oslo Accords when it was part of Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin's coalition.
"We've experienced terror attacks, missiles, the Disengagement from Gaza. It's time to pull ourselves together," said Erdan.
The Environmental Minister then went on to slam Atias by saying that Shas is working to increase the social gaps. Erdan said Shas gathers votes by exploiting the Ashkenazi-Sephardic divide and added, "Why did you not demand the welfare portfolio if you are so concerned over disadvantaged populations?"
Shas and the Likud have been at odds over the past week, after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu hinted 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.'"
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."
On Saturday night, Shas' spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, called on yeshiva students 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."