Beware of Baba Arye

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Arye Deri is back as the top gun in Shas, and that is bad news for just about everybody in this country because Deri is shady, retrogressive, and a purveyor of hate.

Published in The Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom, Friday, May 10, 2013.


Arye Deri is back as the top gun in Shas, and that is bad news for just about everybody in this country because Deri is shady, retrogressive, and a purveyor of hate.

Go back and read the district court transcripts of Deri’s conviction for bribery and fraud. Read Mordechai Gilat’s blockbuster book “Deri’s Curse,” which details how Deri corrupted everybody around him. Read any of Deri’s recent interviews, in which he expresses no remorse whatsoever for his sins of yesteryear.

Yes, Deri “paid his debt” to society through time in jail. But is he really the finest person that the large and important Shas community has to offer as a national leader? Is Deri truly the model individual that Shas educators wish to present before their flock?

And you wonder: Is this really the man with whom Shelly Yachimovich is going to make common cause in presenting an alternative government for the State of Israel?

Deri is retrogressive because he is the mastermind behind Shas’ disastrous school system, where children are trapped in an impossible world of Ultra-Orthodox strictures and limitations; a system that deems real work and productivity – what we would call normal life – ossur (“forbidden”); a system that pauperizes and radicalizes the Sephardic population.

Deri is one of the father-figures of the Haredi world of dependency, of living off the dole. He was central to the creation of the all-encompassing government-support system for those studying in yeshiva; a system so comprehensive that it simply doesn’t pay for a Kollel man to step out into the working world.

Beware of Baba Arye-JPost-10 May2013

Sad to say, Shas mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef publicly praised Deri this week for just this; for obtaining lavish benefits from the government “to the extent that Agudat Yisrael representatives did not manage to secure over four decades.” Oh, how ruefully has Rav Ovadia been wrapped around Deri’s little finger!

I haven’t once heard the newly-reincarnated Ayre Deri speak positively about higher education and professional-training programs for the Ultra-Orthodox that have opened in recent years, nor has he said one kind word about increased participation of Haredim in the army.

Manipulative is Arye Deri’s middle name. When he was interior minister, Deri used every trick in the book to force municipalities to favor Shas institutions and party hacks (and to get his brothers appointed as municipal rabbis). He repeatedly monkeyed with Daylight Savings Time to fit one or another perceived (false) “need” of the religious community, to the detriment of the economy and all lovers of long summer evenings.

Why the regulatory mischief? Because it was Deri’s way of reminding us who was really running the country.

Worse still, Deri is behind the increasing hateful and crude language that we have heard from Rav Ovadia in recent years about the State of Israel, about the secular public, and about the Religious Zionist community. Deri is responsible for the very-unfortunate estrangement between Rav Ovadia (who was once a Chief Rabbi of the State of Israel!) and the Religious Zionist public.

Deri was almost certainly the person who whispered wicked things about Naftali Bennett’s Bayit Yehudi party in the ears of Rav Ovadia, leading to the rabbi’s outrageous outburst in January that Bennett leads the “Bayit (home) of Goyim,” not the “Bayit of Jews.”

This so neatly fits the Deri modus operandi: vicious, vindictive, and no-holds-barred.

Reportedly, Deri was also behind the infamous, racist “Kochavit Giyur” (Dial-a-Conversion) advertising campaign that Shas ran in the recent elections. This campaign smeared Russian olim as counterfeit converts, and slandered Religious Zionist rabbis as liberal destroyers of conversion standards.

Politically, let’s not forget that Deri spawned the “stinking maneuver” in 1990 which attempted to bring down the unity government led by Prime Minister Shamir and install a narrow Peres government instead. The move failed, but it cast the die for years of close cooperation between the Left and the Haredim.

Deri was a loyal partner in passing the Oslo I and II accords in Knesset, and in doing so bought the Labor Party’s support for Haredi takeover of all state religious enterprises (such as the Chief Rabbinate, religious courts and more). Today, Deri is suspiciously close to Ehud Olmert and Haim Ramon, and outspokenly hostile to Religious Zionism and the communities of Judea and Samaria.

Just yesterday, Shas MK Yitzhak Cohen sent Prime Minister Netanyahu a surprising letter calling on Israel to embrace the so-called Arab League peace initiative. Can you imagine? A Shas leader imploring Netanyahu to “turn over every stone and investigate every possibility…that the Arab League initiative holds the seeds for a new bridge of understanding between Islam and Judaism and the Jewish state”?

Such phony, lefty openness to ersatz Arab diplomatic overtures wasn’t typical Shas behavior under the aegis of former party leader Eli Yishai. But Deri is back and is marching Shas towards the Saudis and the political left.

Of course, it was just a matter of time until Deri pushed Eli Yishai out of the Shas leadership. Deri has always been about Deri. And with Rabbi Ovadia Yosef fading in old age, Shas is going to even more become a Deri-centric circus.

I sense that Shas is going to promote Deri up the ladder to spiritual leader; the heir apparent to Rav Ovadia. Get ready for “Baba Arye.” You’ll soon be hearing Rebbe-style miracle stories about Baba Arye’s mystical, magical powers, and his great humanitarian works.

And soon we’ll all be tasting Baba Arye’s brand of bitter, blithely sectorial, and brusquely cynical politics. Beware.

David M. Weinberg is a think tank director, columnist and lobbyist who is a sharp critic of Israel’s detractors and of post-Zionist trends in Israel. Read more »
A passionate speaker, David M. Weinberg lectures widely in Israel, the U.S. and Canada to Jewish and non-Jewish audiences. He speaks on international politics and Middle East strategic affairs, Israeli diplomacy and defense strategy, intelligence matters and more. Click here to book David Weinberg as a speaker

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