Shas honcho apologizes for calling Likud-Beytenu ‘Russian and white’

‘I never speak like that, they are my brothers,’ Aryeh Deri says, stepping back from ethnically charged rhetoric employed a day earlier

Joshua Davidovich is The Times of Israel's Deputy Editor

Shas party leader Aryeh Deri, December 2012  (photo credit: Tsafrir Abayov/Flash90)
Shas party leader Aryeh Deri, December 2012 (photo credit: Tsafrir Abayov/Flash90)

Ultra-Orthodox politician Aryeh Deri apologized Friday for referring to the rival Likud-Beytenu Knesset slate as a party for “Russians and whites,” a day earlier.

Deri, one of the three top members of the ultra-Orthodox Sephardi party Shas, was striking back at Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman Thursday when he made the comment.

Speaking to Army Radio, Deri said he took back his words and called Likud-Beytenu members “my brothers.”

“This was a big mistake,” Deri said. “Unfortunately, yesterday, under pressure of the conflict, I didn’t pay attention to my words. I apologize. That’s not my style. I never speak like that. They are my brothers.”

On Thursday, Deri said Likud-Beytenu was working against the interests of the country’s Sephardi population, of Middle Eastern or North African extraction.

“Once the people’s party, Likud-Beytenu has become an arrogant and smug party that represents Russians and white people,” Deri said, adding that the party humiliated Sephardi ministers.

Earlier Thursday, reports emerged that Liberman had attacked Shas in a yet-to-be-published interview, saying his party would take over the Interior and Housing ministries from Shas.

“Aryeh shouldn’t be a minister. It’s beneath him,” Liberman told the ultra-orthodox Mishpacha magazine.

Both parties, arch rivals on the issues of state and religion, have been stepping up rhetoric against each other as next month’s elections near. Yisrael Beytenu, which represents the largely secular Russian-speaking population, wants to change certain policies currently guided by religious concerns, like marriage and mandatory military service.

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