Sources close to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu revealed Sunday night that Netanyahu strongly welcomes former Shas chairperson Eli Yishai's decision to break off from Shas and form his own Ha'am Itanu party, hinting at future cooperation between the party and Likud.
The sources were quoted by Channel 10 saying of Yishai: "everything he gets is taken from (Shas head) Aryeh Deri."
According to the report Netanyahu has a keen desire for Deri's power to be weakened, as Deri has firmly placed himself in the leftist camp and has indicated he supports Labor chairperson Yitzhak Herzog for prime minister, signifying he would join a coalition with him.
Deri's Shas is seen as the only hareidi party that would make such a move to join with Herzog, meaning there is a tactical interest for Netanyahu that Deri not be strong enough to heavily impact the formation of coalitions.
How that stands to play out remains to be seen; some polls have shown Yishai neatly splitting Shas's electoral power in half with each receiving four mandates, while others estimate Shas staying at nine seats and Yishai not passing the threshold percentage.
The latest poll carried out by the Knesset Channel shows Ha'am Itanu scraping into the Knesset with four seats, and leaving Deri's Shas party with five - far fewer than its current 11 seats.
The sources add that Netanyahu is very interested in having Yishai make it over the threshold - even if it comes at the expense of some voters putting their support behind Yishai instead of Likud.
The report noted that despite speculation, both Netanyahu and Yishai have denied that the prime minister's hand was behind Yishai's decision to split from Shas. Deri has yet to comment on the topic.
As for Deri, Galei Tzahal (IDF Radio) reported on Monday morning that Shas is trying to pressure Rabbanit Adina Bar Shalom, the eldest daughter of Shas founder and mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef ztz”l, and her husband Rabbi Moshe Bar Shalom to sign a letter against Yishai's party.
According to the report, the couple who currently are in the United States have also been receiving threats that if they don't sign the letter they will be harmed. The Shas backlash against Yishai has already seen an extremist Shas member arrested for threatening Yishai.
Shas responded to the report saying that "Deri's office isn't dealing with the letter which is expected to come from the family."
There are doubts about the letter coming however; Bar Shalom was revealed last week to have slammed Deri in recordings, saying "he is not behaving in the way my father expected him to."