Eli Yishai, Aryeh Deri
Eli Yishai, Aryeh DeriYonatan Sindel/Flash 90

Shas leader Aryeh Deri refused to rule out nominating archrival and former faction head Eli Yishai to run for the position of Jerusalem mayor in the upcoming municipal elections.

Speaking with Yisrael Hayom, Deri said that Shas was seeking to nominate a candidate who was loyal to the Shas party line while being able to draw the support of Jerusalem residents who do not hail from the Haredi community.

"Who determined that Haredi cannot be part of the consensus?" asked Deri. "You have to look for such a character. I do not rule out a haredi candidate for any position."

Upon being queried whether he was referring to Eli Yishai, who is thought to enjoy wide popularity within Jerusalem, Deri said that "I don't want to get into the names. I do not want to hurt others. I'm looking for a candidate who is part of the consensus."

Deri also said that was not daunted by Shas' recent plummet in the polls and insisted that Shas will not lose any Knesset seats in the next elections. 'Shas will receive no less than seven mandates," declared Deri. "I'm not moved by the surveys, all they do is motivate the activists who understand that they are fighting for their home. "

Recent polls show Shas is in danger of failing to pass the 3.25% threshold – potentially leaving Shas out of the Knesset for the first time since it was formed in 1984.

Senior haredi Sephardic rabbis have been pushing Eli Yishai to launch a bid for mayor of Jerusalem in the upcoming local elections, scheduled for October.

Yishai, who served as a Shas MK for two decades, and led the party following his predecessor Aryeh Deri’s conviction on corruption charges, split from Shas ahead of election for the 20th Knesset in 2015. Yishai founded the “Yahad” (Together) party, which ran on a joint list with the right-wing Otzmah Yehudit faction, but narrowly missed the 3.25% minimum threshold required for entry to the Knesset.

Since his departure, Yishai has been the subject of rumors suggesting he could return to Shas, either to replace Deri, who rejoined the party in 2013, or as chairman of Yahad in a joint list with Shas.

To end the rivalry between Yahad and Shas, a new initiative is aimed at drawing Yishai, a resident of Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood, into this October’s race for Jerusalem mayor as part of the Shas party. Those backing the move believe Yishai could win the race – delivering a much-needed win to Shas – and would stop the hemorrhaging of votes from Shas to Yahad.

The Jerusalem Mayoral race is seen as wide open ever since current city head Nir Barkat recently announced he would not seek re-election in October, and that he would instead submit his candidacy for the Likud list for the Knesset elections in 2019.

Since he made that announcement, several names have come up as possible candidates for the position, including coalition chairman MK David Amsalem and Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze'ev Elkin. According to reports, Zionist Union MK Nachman Shai will also join the race within the next month.