Close associates of former Shas
chairman Aryeh Deri said Monday that he does not plan on returning to the religious party.
"He prefers forming a new movement, particularly at this time, when divisions within the nation are peaking and ahead of elections that are due to focus on this issue exactly," one of the associates told Ynet.
"He feels committed to forming a party that will incorporate haredim, traditional Jews, seculars, Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews and to proving that people can live here differently. A final decision has yet to be reached, but he understands that it has to be made in the coming days."
'A lot of respect.' Deri (L) with Rabbi Yosef (Photo: Boaz Ben-Ari)
According to the associate, Deri "still has a warm place in his heart and a lot of respect for (Shas spiritual leader) Rabbi Ovadia Yosef
and the old Shas which he headed, but on the other hand, (the party) does not suit him today. He will not be satisfied with heading the party and being appointed its senior minister. He had that at age 28."
Some three weeks ago current Shas chairman Eli Yishai
addressed the possibility of Deri's return for the first time. Yishai speculated that Rabbi Yosef would not permit Deri to form a separate party ahead of the next general elections.
Speaking to the Kol Barama radio station, Yishai called on his predecessor to return to the religious party, adding that Deri "would not do anything contrary to the opinion of (Rabbi Yosef)."
Deri was forced to resign from the cabinet in 1993 over corruption charges. He was sentenced in 1999 to three years in prison. Yishai replaced him as Shas chairman.
In June 2011 Deri announced that he was planning to form a new political movement ahead of the next elections. "In Israel one cannot contribute without political clout," he said at the time. "I want to use my clout to foster unity."