The spiritual leader of the Shas party, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, explained Saturday night that he had promised MK Aryeh Deri that he would return to lead Shas once he is released from prison.
Rabbi Yosef thus explained the decision of the Council of Torah Sages to appoint Deri as the party’s leader, essentially ousting MK Eli Yishai who led the party for 13 years.
“The Council of Torah Sages decided to appoint Rabbi Aryeh Deri as party chairman because we had to 'return the deposit' to him,” Rabbi Yosef said during his weekly Torah lecture. “I promised him this when he entered prison.”
Referring to Yishai, Rabbi Yosef said that he is "an upright and honest man. I am grateful, he did everything with wisdom and humility, he never boasted. I thank him for all he has done.”
Both Deri and Yishai have previously served as head of Shas. The two have reportedly clashed as joint leaders, leading to tension in the entire party as MKs split between "the Deri camp” and “the Yishai camp”. Yishai has decidedly right-wing views, while Deri leans to the left and supported the Oslo Accords.
Yishai has been offered to head the Shas network of schools, and has requested a period of ten days to decide whether he will accept the role offered to him.