If Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decides to make territorial concessions that he honestly believes will bring greater security to Israel, Shas will support the move, according to Aryeh Deri, No. 2 on the ultra-Orthodox party’s Knesset slate.
Deri said that Shas was convinced by the sincerity of Netanyahu’s recent comments supporting a two-state solution with the Palestinians.
If the prime minister honestly believed that a two-state solution would help save lives, Deri said, “then we will support him. And if he thinks that it will endanger our security, we will support him” in that decision as well.
The stalwart Shas politician, who’s in the midst of a comeback after serving out a jail sentence for corruption, discussed what pundits have seen as a flip-flop between the party’s moderate line under his leadership in the 1990s, and the more right-wing stance it has adopted under its current leader, Interior Minister Eli Yishai, in recent years.
“Shas is neither right-wing, nor left-wing,” Deri said. “The political outlook stems from Jewish law, as ruled upon by Rav Ovadia Yosef [the party's spiritual leader]. It is not a political ideology but a halachic one, which holds the sanctity of man to be greater than the sanctity of land.”
According to Deri, during the 1990s, in the wake of the peace treaty with Jordan and the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians, Yosef believed that more lives would be saved through territorial concessions.
However, he said, the Second Intifada of the early 2000s, and the 2005 disengagement from Gaza, brought Hamas to Israel’s doorstep. It was only then, he continued, that Yosef ruled that concessions were forbidden by Jewish law due to the dangers they entailed.
Deri played down a recent public spat with embattled Yisrael Beytenu head and former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman, during which he claimed that Liberman 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,” Deri said on Sunday.
But on Thursday, Deri claimed that he and Liberman were close personal friends, and that there was no conflict in Israel between Sephardim and Ashkenazim. Rather, he said, the discord was class-based.
“We’re talking about the underprivileged classes. We’re talking about the periphery. We’re talking about the development towns,” Deri said. “We’re talking about the children who don’t receive the same opportunities as children in the center of the country.”
Israel is so divided it’s as if it comprises two countries, “and we cannot ignore that,” emphasized Deri. “If Shas didn’t exist, there would be nobody to raise the problem.”