Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (Shas) in an interview with Hebrew-language newspaper Makor Rishon spoke about the submarine scandal involving Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
"The day the Cabinet approved the submarine deal, an article was published stating that there were those in the army who opposed the deal and believed it to be extraneous," Deri explained. "When I put the question on the table, I saw that then-Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, the Chief of Staff, and the head of the Navy all supported buying the submarines. I asked the army to present the opposite viewpoint, but they pushed me off and said that the rumors that some in the army disagreed with them were not true."
Regarding the Netanyahu investigation, Deri said, "There's no doubt that Netanyahu would have been better off without these investigations. The investigations take time and energy, but I think he's doing pretty well. He's a better prime minister than he was the first time around. He's more experienced and sometimes I wonder at his patience. He runs the government well, with foresight and stability. The public only knows what they see, but I'm exposed to more in the Cabinet meetings, and I see how he's doing."
Deri also said he would not join forces with Yesh Atid.
"[Yair] Lapid is not a partner at all, and we have nothing to say to him," Deri said. "As long as the system works the way it does and we have to endorse a candidate for prime minister, we will endorse the right-wing candidate. We have good partners - the Jewish Home party, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu), and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu)."
Regarding his relationship with the Jewish Home party, Deri said, "We've left our past arguments and bad feelings behind. We have many conversations, and a good relationship, with Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked. Everyone understands that there's no better government."
Deri also doesn't think that newly-elected Labor leader Avi Gabbay has enough experience.
"Who would have dreamed that these would be the inheritors of Golda Meir, of David Ben-Gurion, of Moshe Dayan and Levi Eshkol? It's a huge change, and it's because of our Shas party. Unfortunately, Gabbay does not have enough experience. In the interview he gave last week, he spoke about religion and politics, about the Western Wall and the conversions, and he said things that even Yair Lapid would not have dared to say."
He's also willing to take Eli Yishai back into his party - despite the fact that Yishai formed his own party and ran separately from Shas in the 2015 elections.
"If Eli Yishai regrets making his own party, is willing to accept the authority of Torah sages, and wants to return to Shas - we will welcome him," Deri emphasized. "We will accept all of them - but we will not negotiate with him. Shas is the natural party for the entire Sephardic community."
"We are not [the Ashkenazic haredi] UTJ, which is made up of several different factions. Each of them has their own rebbe, their own hasidic sects, and we're not made for that. Shas was never more strongly united than it is today."
Regarding the polls, which showed a drop in the number of seats his party would receive, Deri said, "Polls show what the mood is at that moment. You can't do a poll in the middle of an event. The right-wing bloc has stayed stable, and in the meantime we're not seeing any signs of that changing."