Aryeh Deri and Eli Yishai of Shas during happier days
Aryeh Deri and Eli Yishai of Shas during happier daysFlash90

Former Shas leader Eli Yishai held clandestine contacts with senior Shas officials to probe whether he could return to the party, only to be rebuffed.

According to Behadrei Haredim, Yishai had sent am an emissary to Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Shalom Cohen to inquire whether he could return to the party, which he had abandoned in 2013 after being deposed by current Shas head Aryeh Deri.

Yishai told the rabbi that his Yahad party would be willing to run together with Shas in order to ensure that both parties crossed the electoral threshold. Cohen refused to merge the two parties, however, telling Yishai that "there is only one Torah and the Sephardim have one party. Anyone who wants to run as part of Shas is invited to".

Talk of Yishai running together with Shas has been discussed for over a year as Shas continues to implode in the polls.

The current electoral threshold of 3.25% requires a party to win the equivalent of 3.9 seats’ worth of votes to gain representation in the Knesset. Shas, which has been represented in every Knesset since 1984, has been the largest haredi party for the past three decades. In 1999, during the trial of former Shas chief Aryeh Deri, the party soared to 17 seats, the most a haredi faction has ever won.

In recent years, however, the party has been in decline, falling to 12 then 11 seats, before sinking to just 7 mandates in 2015.

Yishai had split off from Shas after he was deposed by current head Aryeh Deri. In 2015, his Yahad [arty ran on a joint list with the Otzma Yehudit party, led by former Kach party activists, including one-time National Union MK Michael Ben-Ari and Baruch Marzel.

While most polls showed Yahad crossing the 3.25% minimum electoral threshold required to enter the Knesset, the party came up short, receiving 125,158 votes, or about 2.97% of all valid ballots and about 13,000 short of the threshold.