MK Michael Malchieli (Shas) on Thursday rejected recent polls predicting that his party would not pass the electoral threshold in the April election.
In an interview with i24news, Malchieli also snubbed the prospect of Shas uniting in an electoral alliance with the country’s other haredi parties.
“The polls are not polling us correctly...There were elections one and a half months ago and 274,000 people voted for Shas,” said Malchieli, referring to the municipal elections held at the end of October. “That's eight and a half seats based on the previous voting percentage.”
He pointed out that the problem with the polls conducted in the wake of the announcement of snap elections is that most are conducted online, and the majority of the haredi voter base is for the most part disconnected from the digital world.
“Shas is not counted because most of the polls are done on the Internet and most of our public do not go on the Internet,” Malchieli told i24news, confidently projecting his party earning nine seats in the next Knesset.
The interview with the Shas MK followed a report on Wednesday that the three haredi parties in the Knesset – Shas, Agudat Yisrael, and Degel Hatorah – have been holding contacts in recent days on running together in the April elections.
According to the report in Hadashot TV, the initiative is being led by a group of rabbis seeking to determine that in the elections there will be one ballot at the polling stations that will include Shas and United Torah Judaism, with its two parts: Agudat Yisrael and Degel Hatorah.
A number of Shas MKs on Thursday came out in opposition to the initiative, saying that uniting with United Torah Judaism would water down Shas' identity as representatives of the Sephardic haredi community.
Malchieli told i24news there was “no point” in considering such a union.
“Sometimes we need unity and not unification,” Malchieli said. “The one who decides is the Council of Torah Sages, the rabbis. Shas brings tools that United Torah Judaism doesn't bring and vice versa.”
He also categorically ruled out joining forces with former Shas leader Eli Yishai, who was ousted by the party’s late spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and went on to form the Yahad Party.
“We do not zig zag in Shas. Whoever doesn't comply with the Council of Torah Sages cannot be part of Shas,” Malchieli told i24news.
Malchieli stressed that his party would continue to support Prime Minister Binyamin Netanayhu so long as the law allowed, and was unmoved by possible corruption indictments against the Prime Minister.
“As Shas, what bothers me is that there are people who cannot make ends meet, that there are families complaining they have no money, that Holocaust survivors have to decide between heat or medication, that bothers me very much. When we solve the State's welfare problems, I'll deal with the other problems,” he told i24news.
“As long as the law allows him to be prime minister and he wants to be prime minister, to stay in the role, Shas will not oppose him...He will take responsibility, he will make his own decisions, Shas will not interfere,” added Malchieli.