Report: Threats Made Against MK Eli Yishai

Anonymous phone calls to the MK threatened him with 'stabbing' if he switched parties. Are internal Shas tensions to blame?

Tova Dvorin,

MK Eli Yishai
MK Eli Yishai
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Political tensions have spilled far beyond the Knesset plenum, Walla! News reports Wednesday - after Shas MK Eli Yishai filed a report to the Knesset police stating that he had been threatened if he formed a new party.

Yishai stated that he had received several anonymous phone calls, during which he was threatened to be "stabbed" if he formed a new political party or joined a different party in the upcoming elections.

Yishai added that he had been examining his political career over the past several days, ahead of elections, and indeed had been considering switching parties, due to tensions between him and current Shas party head Aryeh Deri. 

Yishai and Deri agreed to meet last month for the first time in nearly a year, and decided to work together - but not after a series of public comments made against each other in the media.

Deri had stated shortly beforehand in a Channel 2 interview that "Shas has rejected social issues in recent years" - referring to Yishai's term as party chairman - provoking Yishai's associates to sharply criticize Deri in response, claiming he tried to undermine Yishai and other MKs. 

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.

And the rivalry may not dissipate soon: insiders noted to Yediot Aharonot in October that a recent Knesset channel survey found the majority of the public, and the majority of Shas voters, would prefer to see MK Eli Yishai take Deri's place - as he did for several long years while Deri was out of politics after being jailed for corruption.