Rabbi Haim Amsallem
Rabbi Haim AmsallemIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Former Shas MK Rabbi Haim Amsallem regrets not joining the Bayit Yehudi party in the last elections, despite offers to do so by the religious Zionist party.

In an interview with Arutz Sheva, Amsallem revealed that before the elections, there were “understandings between members of Bayit Yehudi and myself,” regarding an agreement to join forces. The plan was to have Amsallem run as the sole hareidi candidate on the Bayit Yehudi list. Instead, he ran at the head of an independent list, Am Shalem, which failed to pass the minimum threshold for entering the Knesset.

"I believe that the hareidi and non-hareidi sephardic public is close to the religious Zionist outlook,” he said. “We should not have proceeded in two separate forces. If [secular] MK Ayelet Shaked was able to find her place in Bayit Yehudi... I imagine that the Am Shalem movement could also have done that, and that is a missed opportunity. Mine, and Bayit Yehudi's, too."

Amsallem predicted that Shas will shrink in size. “Shas as a magnet for the Sephardic public is at the end of its road,” he said. “Eventually, Shas will turn into a sephardic hareidi party like its Lithuanian twin sister [United Torah Judaism]. This is a public that will stand at two to three Knesset seats.

“The masses of moderate sephardim, most of whom wear knitted kippot, residents of the periphery and the development towns, understand today that it was an illusion, a deception,” he went on. “They understand that Rabbi Ovadia Yosef is the last in the line of Sephardic rabbis, because the other rabbis have already studied in the Ashkenazi yeshivas. They are Sephardim, true, but their path is not the path of Sephardic halakha and legal decisions.”

Amsallem was elected into the 18th Knesset on the Shas list but quickly became a pariah in the party after voicing independent dissenting opinions on issues such as the alleged discrimination against Sephardic girls at a hareidi school in Emanuel, and accusing Sephardic hareidi leaders of kowtowing to the Ashkenazi-Lithuanian hareidi stream.