It’s not The Onion. But it was an onion.
Aryeh Deri, the leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, rubbed the vegetable on his eyes to stimulate tears during the filming of a 2015 election campaign video memorializing the party’s late mentor, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.
Channel 2 news aired footage of Deri resorting to the old Hollywood trick on Sunday night. The segment was leaked by singer Benny Elbaz, who is featured in the clip singing alongside Deri.
Yosef died in October 2013, and the goal of the recording was to highlight Deri’s affinity and genuine longing for Shas’s spiritual leader as he battled for the party’s leadership.
Elbaz and Deri were friends for years, with the former even writing an anthem titled “He is Innocent” when Deri was convicted of accepting bribes in 1999, during his first stint as interior minister.
The song became rather popular among Shas voters, even as Deri went on to serve 22 months in prison.
He reclaimed the party leadership in 2012 and the Interior Ministry in January 2016.
However, the two have experienced a falling out over the past year. In a video he released from the US in November 2016, Elbaz alleged that Deri had “abandoned him” after he had stood by the party leader for 25 years. The singer went on to blame Deri for his financial woes.
Deri’s 2012 return to Shas after years in prison and political exile caused a bitter leadership battle with then-party head Eli Yishai, which eventually led to a power-sharing agreement.
After Yosef’s death, Deri was able to buttress his hold on power by claiming to be closer to the late spiritual leader and therefore the chosen heir to Shas’s leadership.
Yishai, who led Shas from 1999 to 2013, left the party in 2015 and mounted a failed bid for the Knesset with far-rightist Baruch Marzel.
Deri’s election campaign consultant Sefi Shaked admitted to Channel 2 that he was responsible for the onion idea.
“He cried for several hours,” Shaked said. “I was not satisfied with the results obtained … Eventually, we needed to bring him back to that state of mind.”