Shas ad warning against Lieberman's assimilat
Shas ad warning against Lieberman's assimilatFlash 90

Israel's television and radio stations began to air election campaign ads on Tuesday, and Shas has already caused a stir-up.

A television ad on behalf of the party directly targeted olim (new immigrants) from Russia, saying some of them are non-Jews who did not convert to Judaism according to halakha.

The ad shows a couple on their wedding day, when the Russian bride receives a faxed confirmation of her conversion after calling a "conversion hotline".

The bride is shown saying that the fax machine with which the conversion certificate is received was sent as a wedding gift by "Beytenu", a reference to Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beytenu party, which has sought to moderate the Israeli rabbinate.

Shas explained on Tuesday that the ad is intended to convey the sense of danger that would arise from a government consisting of the Likud Beytenu, Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid party and Tzipi Livni's Hatnua. Such a government, said Shas, would severely harm the Jewish character of the State of Israel, in matters of conversions and marriages.

According to Shas, a similar government was established in 2003, when then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon formed a coalition with Tommy Lapid's anti-hareidi Shinui party, leaving Shas in the opposition. That government, said Shas, led initiatives that damaged the Jewish character of the state.

MK Nino Absedaze, who is running for the Knesset with the Labor party and is herself an immigrant from the former Soviet Union, called on the Central Elections Committee to invalidate the Shas ads, saying they are racist and insulting to the olim public.

Shas has directly targeted Lieberman in a series of election signs on buses and other public places, in which Lieberman is shown wearing a black kippah and which state that a strong Shas is needed to prevent the type of assimilation that Lieberman would cause.

The two parties - Shas and the Likud Beytenu - have been at odds during the election campaign, choosing to attack one another.

At the opening of the Likud's campaign, Prime Minister Netanyahu said the Housing Ministry, held by Shas in the outgoing government, “will no longer be controlled by 'sectorial interests.'"

He added, "The Ministry is not providing equitable service right now, and this cannot continue. In the same way that we reduced the prices on cellphone service, we will reduce the cost of housing.”

Lieberman himself later said in an interview that Shas would receive the Infrastructures and Tourism portfolios in the next government.

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."

Shas head Aryeh Deri later responded to Lieberman's remarks by saying that "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."

Deri subsequently apologized and issued a retraction for the remarks, but he later accused Likud of planning a government without any Sephardim in senior positions.