One day after the dramatic announcement by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid that the Knesset will be dissolved, Shas chairman Aryeh Deri revealed in an interview with Radio Kol Chai on Tuesday evening that the opposition had achieved a majority to pass the law to dissolve the Knesset.
"We had a majority of 61 without [Nir] Orbach. Don't ask me how," Deri said in the interview.
Commenting on Bennett and Lapid's statement from the previous night, he said, "We thought we were going to continue the fight against the government. I can reveal that, even without Orbach, we had a majority to pass the law to dissolve the Knesset in a preliminary reading, but only in the preliminary reading."
He continued, "It has been a very difficult year. Sometimes you ask what the benefit is, but we knew that at the end of this fight, the government would be toppled. I believe that as long as the candle is burning, one should not despair. I visited Hacham Shalom (Rabbi Shalom Cohen, head of the Sephardic Council of Torah Sages -ed.), and told him about the situation. He told me to make every effort and to prevent elections if possible, even if we do not get everything we want. That is what we are doing."
On the parties that Shas will cooperate with, Deri said, "I am realistic. Yisrael Beytenu and Liberman – we have nothing to talk about. Their entire campaign is hatred and incitement. It’s a waste of time. Of course I would be happy about Gantz. But even without Gantz there are 64 MKs who were elected through votes of right-wingers, who pledged not to go with Meretz and Ra'am and broke their promise."
"We suggest to them to forget what was going on until now. It is possible to form a government next week and start working. You have to restore security, the economy. People cannot make ends meet and yet Bennett says this is the best government since the establishment of the state."
"Who said there was an election? Bennett and Lapid are the ones who announced an election yesterday. Their entire motto was to prevent an election and yesterday they declared an election in order to prevent the formation of an alternative government. This is a coalition that has done all the worst things and it must pass from this world."
On Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid, Deri said, "Only two weeks ago, Lapid worked day and night to strengthen the government. When he was asked ‘what is the difference between your coalition funds and what was in the past?’ he replied that they were taking these funds 'for a worthy cause.' Are all the budgets for haredim an unworthy cause? The 'forces of darkness' he is talking about - they are more than half of the population."