MK Eli Yishai of Shas withdrew from participation in a memorial for the late Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef on Monday, reportedly due to pressures from the camp of his rival for control of the ultra-Orthodox party, MK Aryeh Deri.
Yishai was scheduled to speak at the event, which took place in the West Bank settlement of Sha’arei Tikva, but canceled only a few hours beforehand after being requested not to speak by a representative of the office of the new Sephardic chief rabbi, Yitzhak Yosef, who is the son of Ovadia Yosef and a Deri supporter, according to sources cited in a Tuesday Army Radio report.
Sources close to Yishai said that he had decided to withdraw from the event so as to not disturb or harm the memorial, despite his close ties to the late rabbi and to the hosting settler community.
The Chief Rabbi’s office denied that it had requested that anyone not attend or participate in the memorial event.
Since the death of Rabbi Yosef in early October, tensions between Deri and Yishai have caused political analysts to question the future of Shas.
Deri, a favorite of the late rabbi, was reinstated by Yosef as leader of the party, in place of Yishai, in 2012, after being barred from political activity following his bribery conviction in 2000, for which he served jail time.