In a fierce excoriation that brought Israel’s subterranean racial tension to the surface for the first time in this election season, Aryeh Deri of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party on Thursday lashed out at the Yisrael Beytenu party’s chief, Avigdor Liberman, claiming that he and his Likud-Yisrael Beytenu list 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,” said Deri, responding to an interview in which Liberman derided Shas and asserted that the Interior and Housing ministries wouldn’t remain in the hands of Shas’s top MKs, but would rather be given to Likud-Beytenu parliamentarians.
Liberman — who recently resigned as foreign minister to fight corruption allegations but remains No.2 on the joint Likud-Beytenu list — had reserved a special barb for the ambitious Deri, a charismatic ex-convict who’s in the midst of a political comeback, saying wryly: “Aryeh shouldn’t be a minister. It’s beneath him.”
In his response, Deri suggested that the October retirement of popular Likud party member and former communications minister Moshe Kahlon was due to racial concerns.
“They humiliated Kahlon,” he said — an apparent reference to Ashkenazi elitists in the Likud — “and now they want to humiliate the rest of the Sephardi ministers. This should be a wake-up call for all Sephardim.”
According to Deri, Liberman was calling the shots in the joint Likud-Yisrael Beytenu list.
“Today the real boss of Likud-Beytenu was revealed,” Deri said. “Yisrael Beytenu has staged a hostile takeover of Likud. Only a strong Shas will safeguard a Sephardi presence in the next Netanyahu government.”