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Shas spiritual leader calls finance minister ‘demon king’

Ovadia Yosef blasts Yair Lapid for promoting ultra-Orthodox draft, which, he says, pains him more than the recent death of his son

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu listens to Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef at the bar mitzvah of party chairman Eli Yishai's son, in February 2011. (photo credit: Ilia Yefimovich/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu listens to Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef at the bar mitzvah of party chairman Eli Yishai's son, in February 2011. (photo credit: Ilia Yefimovich/Flash90)

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the highly influential spiritual leader of Shas and a former chief rabbi of Israel, likened Finance Minister Yair Lapid to a legendary demon because of Lapid’s support for drafting Israel’s ultra-Orthodox population into the IDF or national service.

“Lapid is Asmodeus,” Yosef said according to an Army Radio report Wednesday morning, referring to the demon king found in Jewish folklore and legend.

During a condolence visit by Prime Minister Benjamin for the loss of Yosef’s eldest son from cancer last week, the rabbi, who has a history of controversial and colorful statements, said the possibility of ultra-Orthodox service “saddens me more than the death of my son.”

Yosef also expressed hope that Shas would make a comeback to the government. “Soon, the prime minister will express his intention to return Shas to the coalition, at the expense of his political enemies within [the current coalition],” Yosef said.

After the January elections, Shas was locked out of the government by two new parties, Yesh Atid led by Lapid and the Jewish Home led by Naftali Bennett, who formed a coalition with Netanyahu which excluded the ultra-Orthodox parties. Both Lapid and Bennett are staunch supporters of integrating the ultra-Orthodox into mainstream Israeli life via the IDF, national service and career training.

“Even Netanyahu says that it won’t last a long time with Lapid and Bennett,” Yosef said. “He hates them; it’s known he hates them.”

Netanyahu’s office on Wednesday denied any plans to bring Shas into his ruling coalition.

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