Former Shas chairman Aryeh Deri will announce the formation of a new political party next week, according to the news site Walla.
Deri, 53, is expected to hold a press conference after the Knesset officially votes to dissolve itself next week. Deri was the popular and controversial chairman of Shas — an ultra-Orthodox party whose main constituency is Sephardic Jews — until he was convicted on bribery and corruption charges in 1999 and jailed for 22 months.
He was replaced by current Interior Minister Eli Yishai. Shas won 11 seats in the last election, from a height of 17 a decade earlier. Polls show it at around eight seats this time.
One of Deri’s close associates told Yedioth Ahronoth earlier this week that the new party will be very different from Shas: “[Deri] feels committed to forming a party that will incorporate Haredim, traditional Jews, secular, Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews and will prove that people can live here differently.”
The ultra-Orthodox news site Kikar Shabbat reported that Deri has gathered a number of prominent rabbis who will stand behind his candidacy. Shas operated under the spiritual leadership of chief Sephardi rabbi Ovadia Yosef.
On Thursday, Yishai told Israel Radio that he didn’t think that former party leader Deri would really establish a new party. “It’s hard for me to believe that he will form a new party,” Yishai said. “He always said he’d never go against the wishes of Rabbi Ovadia.”
Yishai also said that he believed that he would continue to hold the position of interior minister in any new government.