Aryeh Deri
Aryeh Deri Israel news photo: Flash 90

Aryeh Deri, who is part of the Sephardic-hareidi Shas faction's ruling triumvirate, let the genie of Sephardic rage out of the bottle Thursday with a nasty comment against the combined Likud / Yisrael Beytenu list, also known as Likud Beytenu.

"Today we have learned who truly controls Likud," he said, after a statement from Lieberman made clear that Shas's power in the next government would be diminished. "Yisrael Beytenu has carried out a hostile takeover of Likud. From the party of the people, Likud has become an arrogant, smug party that represents Russians and whites."

"They humiliated [Moshe] Cachlon," he said, "and now they want to humiliate the rest of the Sephardic ministers. This is a wake-up call to all Sephardim: come home, Likud is no longer your home. Shas is your natural and true home. Only a strong Shas will safeguard the Sephardim in the next Netanyahu government."

Deri's withering attack followed a statement by Yisrael Beytenu boss Avigdor Lieberman in an interview in the hareidi Mishpacha magazine, according to which Shas would receive the Infrastructures and Tourism portfolios in the next government. This would severely downgrade the power of Shas, which currently holds the Housing and Interior ministries. Lieberman said that his own party would now hold these portfolios.

Lieberman appeared to relish in provoking Shas, saying that Infrastructures and Tourism were "very nice" portfolios, and that as Tourism Minister, Shas's Ariel Atias "will be able to travel all over the world."

Yisrael Beytenu would be better at running the Interior and Housing ministries than Shas, said Lieberman. "We will advance Israel's economy," he said, "and I hope that thanks to their [Shas's] prayers, we will do better economically."

Communication Minister Cachlon dismissed Deri's statement. "These things are not true," he said of Deri's claim that he had been humiliated. "I suggest that Aryeh Deri find other gimmicks; and that if he decides to use my name, that he at least say true things and stick to the facts. I am a part of Likud and Yisrael Beytenu, and I will remain that way."

The Ashkenazi-Sephardic divide was an explosive issue in past decades, but in the last 10-20 years it has largely died down, as parties with large Sephardic bases like Likud and Shas became permanent fixtures in the government and as Sephardim and Ashkenazim increasingly intermarry.