MK Nissim Ze'ev
MK Nissim Ze'evYoni Kempinski

Shas MK Nissim Zeev, who founded the party in 1983, spoke in a special interview with Arutz Sheva on Tuesday about the drama unfolding between Shas chairman Aryeh Deri and Ha'am Itanu leader Eli Yishai, as well as the leaked footage of Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef.

In the recordings, Rabbi Yosef is seen in private meetings condemning Deri for his corruption that had him jailed in 1999 and explaining he didn't want to reappoint him as head of Shas - and even going as far as to refer to him as "evil."

On Monday, Deri had requested to resign as Shas leader after a separate recording leaked of Rabbi Yosef making a number of severe remarks against Deri, but the Council of Torah Sages rejected his request. Deri has since indicated that he is determined to resign as party leader despite the ruling. 

Ze'ev explained that, in his view, Deri moved to resign from Shas out of a "lack of confidence" in himself after the tapes were leaked. 

"Deri was hurt by the tapes circulated and the entire Israeli people heard that Maran [Rabbi Yosef - ed.] was against him," Ze'ev stated. "For Deri, this could have made him feel less confident. The Council of Torah Sages and Shas Knesset members gathered to express our faith in him."

Ze'ev added that he had no prior knowledge of the recordings' content, but had heard that they had been leaked. 

"I myself at the time, two months before Deri [came] back [to politics], spoke with Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef of blessed memory, and heard from him that he [Yosef] was opposed to replacing Eli Yishai [as party leader]," he said. "But at the end Maran was convinced that Deri should be allowed to return, even if he was opposed to placing Deri was leader, and later he was convinced to put Deri as the party chairman." 

When asked whether he understood why Eli Yishai left to form his own party, Ze'ev stated that he "understands it," but "does not accept it."

"Yishai could have stayed and grown stronger within Shas," Ze'ev said, "to stand up and demand backing and we as MKs and the Council of Torah Sages would have given full backing to Yishai. Until the last moment I thought he was calling the press conference to retire from politics." 

Ze'ev brought Yishai into politics. 

"Yishai was my student at the Kollel Program in Yeshivat Yesodei HaTorah, and he was my assistant for 7 years in the Jerusalem Municipality; after that he asked me to help Deri."

"I always saw in Yishai honesty and humility, modesty and virtue," he added. "Once Deri called me and told me that he wished I had ten like Eli Yishai." 

Despite this, Ze'ev said that there would be no chance at making peace between the two. 

"Sometimes the writ of divorce is the writ of peace," he explained. "There becomes a point beyond which you can no longer make peace. It is like when a couple starts fighting at home and it affects the children - thus their separation is better for the Shas movement as a whole."