Channel 2 News reported on Sunday evening that Shas chairman MK Aryeh Deri recently foiled an attempt to appoint his fellow party member and long time rival, MK Eli Yishai, as temporary chairman of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
This is the latest episode in an ongoing saga around the appointment of a chairman to the Knesset’s most important committee.
The Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee has been without a chairman since Avigdor Liberman was reinstated as Foreign Minister.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yair Lapid have quarreled over the identity of Liberman’s replacement, with Netanyahu wishing to appoint Likud MK Tzahi Hanegbi to the position, while Lapid insists on appointing MK Ofer Shelah of his Yesh Atid party.
According to Sunday’s Channel 2 report, it was agreed upon by all sides that Yishai would temporarily head the committee until Netanyahu and Lapid could agree on a permanent chairman. Deri, however, immediately vetoed the idea and it was shelved.
Deri's associates rejected the report outright, accusing the Prime Minister of stirring trouble within the Shas party and trying to promote Yishai, while threatening that "there will be consequences" for Netanyahu’s actions.
Yishai’s associates responded to the report by saying that "it is unfortunate that Deri prefers Ofer Shelah from Yesh Atid over Eli Yishai.”
Yishai and Deri are long-time rivals, ever since Yishai took over as leader of Shas while Deri was serving time in prison over corruption charges.
The two were appointed as co-chairs of the party, along with MK Ariel Atias, before the last elections, but the Council of Torah Sages, then headed by the late Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, later ruled that Deri will be Shas chairman, further fueling the conflict between the two.
The long-standing rivalry between the two resurfaced after Rabbi Yosef’s death, when Yishai was reportedly advised against attending the rabbi’s memorial service, due to political pressures from Deri.