Thirteen years after being forced to leave Shas over bribery conviction, the charismatic Sephardi energizer, Aryeh Deri is returning to public life and is likely to retain his leadership post at the Sephardic religious party as the campaign for the 19th Knesset elections was officially launched Monday.
In order to remain relevant in the next government, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s advisers are working on a solution to put an end the rivalry between the current chairman Eli Yishai and Deri. According to the plan, Deri would head the Shas list but Yishai will be appointed to the most senior portfolio post given to Shas in the next coalition.
Deri’s return to Shas as chairman could poise some danger to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s hopes in having the upper hand come Jan. 23rd 2013. A dominated and strengthened Shas party means less power to the Likud, and less leverage to PM Netanyahu in setting the tone in the government and relying on a quiet and loyal coalition partner.
Deri’s close ties with Avigdor Lieberman, Lapid and some on the left, could help shift power from the right to center-left at any event, and endanger Netanyahu’s third term if Ehud Olmert jumps in the ring, as the only viable alternative to the Likud led government. Nonetheless, with so many options remaining open and so many center and social oriented parties seeking the Israeli voters’ confidence, a fractured left would leave Deri no option but to continue as a loyal partner, one of many in a large coalition.