The battle between the current head of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party and a former leader come back to reclaim his seat after spending time in jail seemed to be at an end Wednesday after the two came to an agreement.
Former chairman Aryeh Deri and current party leader Eli Yishai will split the party leadership, with neither one serving as party chairman, the two announced in a joint press conference on Wednesday.
According to the agreement, Deri will control the budget of the party’s school system and kashrut certification authority, while Yishai will act as the senior minister representing Shas in the Knesset.
“Today, I have returned home, and I have done so gladly,” Deri said in a press conference at the Jerusalem home of party spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. “I want to thank Eli Yishai for carrying the burden all these years,” he added.
“Welcome back to the party,” Yishai said. “For years, we have been waiting to be united again. God willing, we will win more mandates now.”
Deri led the party from obscurity to king-making powerhouse until he was convicted of bribe-taking in 1999. He served a prison sentence from 2000 through 2002, then essentially abstained from politics. After years of speculation, he recently indicated he would seek to reclaim the leadership of Shas — a move that Yishai opposed. But Yishai said he would accept the decision of Yosef.
Deri and Yishai will split the chairman’s responsibilities with current Housing and Construction Minister Ariel Atias. In the troika division of powers, Deri is expected to manage the coalition negotiations, the school system and municipal issues, while Yishai will attend to governmental and parliamentary matters.