Published in Israel Hayom, December 31, 2014.
Deri’s “resignation” yesterday from the Knesset and from Shas party leadership is just another “stinking maneuver” meant to re-catapult the wheeling-dealing Deri back into the driver’s seat.
Everybody knew that Aryeh Deri’s return as the top honcho in Shas was bad news. His brand of blithely sectorial, brusquely cynical politics was bound to lead to a bitter breakup with Eli Yishai.
Deri has been a shady character and retrogressive figure in Israeli politics from the start.
He was 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. He has never spoken positively about higher education and professional-training programs for the Ultra-Orthodox that have opened in recent years, nor has he said one word about the importance of increased participation of Haredim in the army.
Deri has always ben eminently flexible. He would cut any deal with anyone of any background if it served his momentary political purpose. He manipulated every government committee to favor Shas party hacks and to get his brothers and allies appointed as government-paid rabbis. He monkeyed with Daylight Savings Time every year, when he thought that sold to his voter base. He whispered wicked things, as needed, about Religious Zionist people, or secular or Russian or Reform Jews, or Likud politicians, in the ears of his “spiritual patrons,” first the late Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, and more recently Rabbi Shalom Cohen.
Deri can directly be blamed for turning Rav Ovadia away from his earlier path of religious and political moderation. 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 that Bennett leads the “Bayit (home) of Goyim,” not the “Bayit of Jews.”
Deri was also behind the infamous, racist “Kochavit Giyur” (Dial-a-Conversion) advertising campaign that Shas ran in the last elections. This campaign smeared Russian olim as counterfeit converts, and slandered Religious Zionist rabbis as liberal destroyers of conversion standards.
I conjecture that Deri would sell every settler to the Saudis, twice over, if that were to earn Shas-affiliated schools a five percent budget increase. After all, Deri spawned the failed “stinking maneuver” in 1990 which attempted to bring down the unity government led by Prime Minister Shamir and install a narrow Peres government instead. Then Deri bought the Labor Party’s support for Haredi takeover of state religious enterprises (such as the Chief Rabbinate and religious courts) by backing the Oslo process – until the intifada made it too difficult for Shas voters to stomach this.
Then, last fall, Deri launched an assault on a Likud stronghold, by joining forces with Avigdor Lieberman in an attempt to capture the Jerusalem municipality and unseat Jerusalem’s impressive mayor, Nir Barkat – through the implausible straw-candidacy of Moshe Leon. Fortunately, Deri lost that battle. Leon and Lieberman’s key party allies are now under investigation for corruption.
I wish I believed that Deri truly was exiting Israeli politics this week. I suspect, however, that Deri’s “resignation” yesterday from the Knesset and from Shas party leadership is just another “stinking maneuver” meant to re-catapult the wheeling-dealing Deri back into the driver’s seat.