MKs from across the political spectrum gathered in the Knesset Monday to celebrate MK Aryeh Deri’s 54th birthday. Among those on hand were Deri’s comrades in the Shas triumvirate, Eli Yishai and Ariel Atias; Labor MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer; Jewish Home’s Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan; and Yisrael Beytenu’s Avigdor Liberman.
The party came as a “surprise” to Deri, who was meeting with colleagues at a faction gathering.
Liberman made his appearance through a side door, cake in hand. Acknowledged by Deri and associates, Liberman jestfully evoked “1-800-Convert” — a reference to a Shas political ad that ran prior to January’s parliamentary elections and which many perceived as racist.
The ad featured a confused, kippa-wearing groom who, at his wedding, realizes that his blonde, Russian-speaking wife-to-be — her accent is grotesquely exaggerated — isn’t Jewish, only to have her conversion to Judaism approved by a Yisrael Beytenu-sponsored dial-in service at the last minute.
In December, Deri lashed out at Liberman, calling his Yisrael Beytenu a “party for white people,” and claiming that Liberman and company were on a crusade against Sephardi politicians.
“Once the people’s party, Likud-Beytenu has become an arrogant and smug party that represents Russians and white people,” Deri said.
But all seemed to have been forgotten at Monday’s birthday party, where the atmosphere was markedly jovial.
For a short while, Liberman even donned a black kippa. Eli Yishai said, “This is the kippa from the campaign,” which brought general laughter. As Deri was cutting the cake, Liberman noted, “The vodka is missing.”
Gabe Fisher and Stuart Winer contributed to this report.