Can (Deri) Tip the Political Balance in Israel?

“I am returning to the political arena in the next election and I will be heading a new political movement. My new party will not represent a specific group like “Shas” which represents eastern Jews, the Sephardim, because what was convenient in 1984 when “Shas” was established is no more relevant at present. I cannot positively contribute to the political life in Israel without a political force. That is why I have decided to come back and establish a political movement to enhance national unity and public responsibility”. That is the statement declared by Areyeh Deri, the former leader of “Shas”, former minister and member of the Knesset.

Deri is a Moroccan Jew who founded “Shas”. He was ‘adopted’ by Supreme Rabbi Ovadia Yousef which caused jealousy among members of the Rabbi’s family. Deri was an honor student in Morocco, but when be migrated “to the Promised Land”, he was shocked by a school decision that made him repeat the sixth grade “because he was not up to the standard”. That day, Deri met face to face racial inequality as a Sephardic Jew compared to an Ashkenazi Jew. His Mentor, Rabbi Ovadia sanctioned in 1999 the incarceration of Deri for committing “corruption” which was a mere cover for the real “crime” Deri committed against the Mentor by not following the Rabbi’s teachings which called Israelis “to strike without mercy the Palestinian serpents”! Deri also committed ‘unforgivable crimes’ when he declared: “Israel has got to recognize the rights of the sons of Ishmael (Ismael), the Arabs. I see no conflict in breaking the Sabeth to demonstrate against the Americans bombing of Iraqi civilians. I absolutely oppose the bombing of Lebanon by Israel in 1992”. When Rabbi Ovadia messengers asked Deri to apologize and retract his statements, he refused and re-asserted his position by saying: “I will not retract and will not apologize because of the fact that there is definitely an extreme magnitude of racial discrimination against the Arabs in Israel”. Shortly after this confrontation, Deri was convicted for “corruption”. Nine years ago, he was released from jail after serving 18 months. Deri’s decision to rejoin the political arena in the next Israeli elections has created panic among the leadership of the far-right parties in Israel who fear that Deri would co-opt their members to join him in the next elections. The Israeli left which is in actual ‘political coma’, had many of its members awakened to the fact that Deri deserves their support because he proved to be “a pragmatic” politician and has attained “moderate” stands pertaining to many political, religious and economical issues. The liberals in Israel might also find in Deri the leader to support in order to create a real balance in the Israeli political arena which is presently tilting in favor of the far-right political parties. The excitement and the concern which Deri brought lately to Israeli politics are derived from “his personality who still garners great support among eastern Jews” who are extremely vital for the far-right parties; especially Likude. Any erosion of support for the far-right will topple its agenda which is being manipulated by “the Israeli settlers/ colonizers” who dominate Israeli politics. It is to be remembered that Deri is a very experienced politician. In the nineties, he convinced the religious leadership (Ovadia) of the eastern Jews power; consequently to establish a political movement (Shas) which could maneuver skillfully among the different political factions in Israel only agreeing with one against another “after getting paid” for its political support. Deri made the vote of every eastern Jew counts and he exacted a worthwhile price for it. He even managed to get religious “Fatwas” from Ovadia to support the Oslo’s agreement with the PLO in which “withdrawal from (Palestinian) territories is permissible to prevent (Jewish) blood-shed”. Deri joined a coalition with Likude under Benjamin Netanyahu fifteen years ago, and he supported the labour government three years later, under the leadership of Ehud Barak. When Deri went to jail, his party, “Shas”, lost most of its power and influence and was absorbed by the far-right which influenced Rabbi Ovadia and reshaped the political stand of Shas new leader, Eli Yishai, who has established his far-right position in order to be compatible with the current extremism coming from both sides, the religious and the national extremists who are ruling Israel now. Recent polls in Israel show that Deri’s new political movement can tip the balance for the benefit of the political side it favors. According to the Israeli newspaper “Yediot Ahronot”, Deri could be the one to decide who would be the next Prime Minister of Israel. If Dredi does not run, the following results would take place, according to the polls: the far-right parties would get 63% of the votes. Kadima and the rest of the Israeli left would get 57%. In specific terms: (3) seats for “al-mifdal”, (10) seats for “Shas”, the National Union (4) seats and (12) seats for the Arab parties and the Independence Party would get nothing! If Deri runs leading “Shas”, the results would be the following: (25) seats for Likud with one seat less than before, (29) seats for Kadima with (3) seats less, (14) seats for Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beitenu), (4) seats for “Meretz” party, (6) seats for Agudat Yisrael, (14) seats for “Shas”. Finally, if Deri runs leading a secular/ religious list of candidates, the results would give (24) seats for Likud, (29) seats for Kadima, Labour Party (10) seats, Yisrael Beituna (13) seats, Shas (8) seats, Agudat Yisrael (6) seats and Deri (new) party would get (9) seats.

It is too early to predict exactly, but Deri’s declaration has created “A Panic” in the political arena in Israel in which the far-right in Israel would loose a great deal of votes, with the exception of the votes of the ‘settlers’. This “panic” prompted some Knesset members to introduce a law which prevents ex-convicts from running in elections to prevent Deri from joining ‘the electoral democratic process in Israel’!!!