Shas leader Aryeh Deri hasreportedly held a secret summit with senior party officials and close advisers in order to reverse Shas' plummet in the polls.
According to Kikar Hashabbat, Deri has been rattled by polls over the past year which have shown Shas barely making it over the electoral threshold. According to the report, top haredi public relations consultants advised Deri to make sweeping changes to the party in order to climb in the polls.
Kikar Hashabbat added that Deri refused to examine the possibility of longtime nemesis and former Shas leader Eli Yishai returning to the party despite internal polls showing that such a move would benefit the faction.
Shas' decline from the 17 seats it won in 1999 has been attributed to several factors, including the death of party founder and Sephardic icon Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef and the ongoing police investigations of party leader Aryeh Deri and his wife for alleged money laundering, fraud, breach of trust, theft, fraudulent registration, numerous tax offenses, and corruption.
As a way to reverse Shas' dwindling electoral fortunes, several members of both the Shas and UTJ parties have floated an idea that the two factions would run together in the next elections in order to ensure that Shas makes it into the Knesset.
Modeled after the Joint List party, which unified the three Arab parties into a single list ahead of the 2015 election, proponents say that a united haredi party would maximize the community’s Knesset representation, and ease disputes over the allocation of seats.
Reports have also surfaced that senior rabbis from Shas' Council of Torah Sages have been holding secret contacts with Yishai in order to facilitate his return to the helm of Shas. Last Thursday, Yishai said that he was open to merging his Yahad party and rejoining Shas in order to restore haredi unity Thursday.
"We are not interested in a dispute," he told Kol Berama Radio. "We are interested in doing the merger in order to save the world of the Torah and Torah Judaism."