The daughter of the late spiritual leader of the Shas party said Tuesday that she “fears” a radical right-wing government will lead Israel toward a bi-national state.
Speaking at a Geneva Initiative meeting in Tel Aviv, Israel Prize winner Adina Bar-Shalom said that Shas party leader Aryeh Deri would forcefully urge a peace accord with the Palestinians should the ultra-Orthodox party join a ruling coalition.
Bar-Shalom, who is not running for the Knesset, but is a member of the party’s council for women’s rights, also lashed out at the government for its treatment of its Arab citizens and condemned right-wing Jews who visit the Temple Mount for “causing bloodshed.”
Her comments came a week after Deri indicated at a party gathering that he was likely to recommend that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu form the next government following the March 17 election.
“I am afraid of the ramifications of an extreme right-wing government,” she told the gathering, according to Channel 2. “We do not want a bi-national state. But if we keep the status quo — we’ll get there. A lot of blood has been spilled and every few years we have another war. The only alternative is two states for two nations. As time passes, we will get a worse deal.”
If peace talks come up in the next government, Bar-Shalom said, “Shas, Deri, and the MKs will push for it with all their might.” She maintained that this was in line with the worldview of her late father, former chief rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the founder and spiritual leader of Shas.
“My father loved Eli Yishai, but did not like the right wing,” she said, referencing Deri’s rival, who split off to form the religious-nationalist Yachad party in these elections. “Yishai joined those who go up to the Temple Mount, something that my father said was completely forbidden.”
“Those who go up to the Temple Mount cause bloodshed,” she added.
Bar-Shalom also came out against the “deprivation” of rights for Israel’s Arab minority.
“Somehow we have forgotten that we live in a state in which Arabs also live, and we deprived them of their rights. Their names are not on street signs, their lives are terrible.”
She said the discrimination “instills them with hatred,” rather than shaping them to be “the bridge to the Palestinians.”
In the early stages of the elections, Bar-Shalom was considering a run for the Knesset, but ultimately decided to accept the role of adviser on women’s issues for the Shas party, which does not accept female candidates for the Knesset, citing religious considerations.
Deri and Yishai are battling for the votes of Israel’s Sephardic population, with Yishai aligning himself with rightists such as Baruch Marzel, and Deri’s platform mostly focused on economic issues for Israel’s poor and disadvantaged. Shas has historically counted Mizrahi Jews as its voter base, and has campaigned on bread-and-butter welfare issues that cater to the community, many of whose members fall below the poverty line.
Last Tuesday, Deri threw his support behind Netanyahu for the premiership.
“Bibi,” he said, referring to the prime minister by his nickname, “we’re with you. We want to be with you. We want you to be prime minister.”
But Deri, speaking at Tel Aviv’s Nokia Arena to thousands of party loyalists, said Shas needed Netanyahu to act like late Likud prime minister Menachem Begin — well regarded in traditional Sephardic circles — rather than secularist Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid, seen by Shas’s low-income base as aloof and elitist.
“We want you as Bibi-Begin, not Bibi-Lapid,” he quipped.
According to recent polls, Shas is predicted to win 6-7 seats in the upcoming election.
Itamar Sharon contributed to this report.