MK Eli Yishai
MK Eli Yishai Israel news photo: Flash 90

Arutz Sheva learned on Wednesday that Housing Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) and MK Eli Yishai (Shas) met this week and discussed the possibility of establishing a joint party.

Political sources said that the plan is that Ariel and Yishai will split off from their parties with the members of their camp, that is Yishai with six Shas MKs who support him, and Ariel with three MKs from the Tekuma faction in the Jewish Home, and possibly MKs Motti Yogev and Yoni Chetboun as well.

The two are trying to reach an agreement between the rabbis of the two camps with the plan being that the rabbis will eventually become the Council of Torah Sages of the new party.

Arutz Sheva has also learned that Yishai is working to keep the rights to the name Shas. Yishai is widely supported in among the residents of Judea and Samaria and by many in the religious Zionist camp. Officials in Shas said that Chetboun could serve as a bridge between the camps due to his vote against the draft law.

Minister Ariel is expected to meet in the coming days with senior representatives of religious Zionism in an attempt to get approval for the process.

Yishai's office would not confirm the report and said in response, "Minister Uri Ariel and Eli Yishai have been friends for many years. Yishai meets with many ministers and Knesset members on many different subjects." Sources close to Ariel declined to comment but said that they intend to reach unity in the Jewish Home.

Ariel and Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett have been at odds in recent days over the composition of the running list for the next elections. 

Bennett has proposed that in order to merge the Jewish Home and the Tekuma lists, all members will compete in the primaries, while Ariel has counter-proposed to add members of Tekuma to the list.

While Ariel would not confirm Arutz Sheva’s report, Bennett cancelled a planned meeting with Ariel a short time ago.

"We will not accept Uri Ariel’s shopping trips around the parties. The Jewish Home is currently under a momentum of activity while Minister Ariel is busy with shopping trips between Baruch Marzel, Eli Yishai and other parties. There are limits to political cynicism," said a statement from Bennett’s office.

Yishai, for his part, has been at odds for years with Shas chairman MK Aryeh Deri. The rivalry between the two goes back a long time and began when Yishai took over as leader of Shas while Deri was serving time in prison over corruption charges.

The two were appointed as co-chairs of the party, along with then MK Ariel Atias, before the last elections, but the Council of Torah Sages, then headed by the late Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, later ruled that Deri will be Shas chairman, further fueling the conflict between the two.

However, it was reported several weeks ago that Yishai and Deri had met one on one and agreed to put their differences aside and work together.