The Israeli key: Gantz will also need a strong lion*

Shas is preparing for the post-Netanyahu era: again, deceiving between the right and the center, subordinating the Council of Sages to Deri, weakening the House of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef

עיתון בין אויבים

A newspaper among enemies

                        By Mati Cohen the editor of The Israeli Palestinian Post

After a few weeks have passed in which Aryeh Deri is working to distance himself from the extreme right, and from Netanyahu, and considering what a senior official in Shas told us and which we brought in the series of articles about the party in recent weeks according to which Deri was frightened by the identification of himself and Shas with the legislation against Israeli democracy, it can be estimated that Deri Returns Shas as a strategic decision to the center of the political map. Of course, with Shas there are no absolutes, and this is only a kind of mirage: As it says we are no longer far right, but you will never know for sure where we are. In other words, Shas is coming back to itself. Our assessment is that Shas officials will talk to Benny Gantz or they are already talking. These will not be talks about the overthrow of the Netanyahu government, but about the day after Netanyahu. For a summary of Deri's moves in recent weeks, see the last article in the series on Shas, last week, issue 92.

The choice of Shas to support the fanatical right greatly weakened the party, and Deri is now working to strengthen it. On the external side of the party, he distances himself from Netanyahu and the extreme right, and in our estimation he will, as stated, open a dialogue with Bnei Gantz; on the internal side, he distances his opponents from Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's house , from positions of power in the party: Aryeh Deri does indeed leave the position of head of the Shas' Council of Torah Sages vacant, and he appointed Rabbi Moshe Maya as temporary head of the council, but this is a tactical move since Deri does not intend to give the position to Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef when he retires as the chief rabbi of Israel; the reason for this is that the council Torah sages is the only body in Shas that has the power to remove Aryeh Deri from his position; And Deri wants his loyalists there.

The question Deri will face will be whether he has the power to both govern the Council of Torah Sages and nominate his brother as the Shas candidate for the Chief Rabbi of Israel. If his power is not sufficient for both maneuvers, in our estimation he will not give up the Council of Sages in favor of Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef but will try to reach an agreement with the other son of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Rabbi David Yosef, regarding the Shas candidate for Chief Rabbi of Israel, a nomination and position that Rabbi David Yosef wants very much. In doing so, Deri will separate the two brothers from Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's house, so that the entire Rabbi's house will not unite against him. A Shas source told us that now all of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's children, except for Rabbi David Yosef and Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef, are opposed to Aryeh Deri. Therefore, Deri will probably use the tactic of divide and conquer, so that the children of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef do not unite against him.

Deri's determined action to distance himself from Netanyahu probably stems from his assessment that Netanyahu's rule, which began in 1996, is nearing its end. Since Netanyahu has so far been a balancing factor in Likud and has prevented the rise of the power of the extreme right, and since in the current term Netanyahu has not been able to stop the extreme right but has drifted after it; Netanyahu's attempt to take the wheel now reinforces the impression that marching with the extreme right was not Netanyahu's new ideology but political weakness. Aryeh Deri smells political weakness from a distance from which most politicians in Israel do not even smell burnt oil. Due to political weakness, Deri distanced himself from Shimon Peres when he lost to Netanyahu in the first year of Netanyahu's reign in 1996, and he distanced himself from the left and even from the political center, and later he even did what he did not do in the 1990s: he announced in advance that he and his party were with Netanyahu because "Bibi needs a strong lion." Now Deri apparently appreciates that Gantz's star is rising, and he too will therefore need a strong lion.

*Arye Deri's name means lion in Hebrew