"There is no such thing as 'Deri's people,' nor 'Yishai's people,' there's only the Shas
party under the guidance of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef,"
told journalists who gathered outside his Jerusalem residence Friday morning, less than a day after Yosef named him sole chairman of the religious faction.
Deri's first act as Shas chair was sending the message to the allies of ousted Shas co-chairman Eli Yishai
to the say that they have a future at the party. Speaking of Yishai, Deri said "I know, this is difficult, but I know him well, and Shabbat cures all ills."
Deri was crowned as sole party head Thursday after Shas Council of Torah Sages approved Yosef's decision to put an end to the short-lived – and ultimately unsuccessful - leadership triumvirate of Deri, Yishai and Ariel Atias, seen by many a hasty pre-election move.
Deri has said in the past that power struggles within the trilateral Shas leadership were the reason for the party's failure to gain more votes in the Knesset election.
According to a source affiliated with Rabbi Yosef, the decision to nominate Deri the sole chairman is attributed to recent failures Shas has been facing in the political arena, as well as to the approaching Chief Rabbinate election and the issue of haredi draft.
Deri told journalists "some conceive of this as of a great honor, but I think of it more literally, as a public service. The thoughts of this heavy burden have stayed with me for the entire day. God willing I hope that together we will shoulder it. There are no 'Deri's man' or 'that man's man' for me. We're all sons, brothers - there is no problem."
Aryeh Deri going to work Friday morning (photo: Gil Yohanan)
Following the announcement on Thursday, Deri thanked Yishai for "steering the ship gracefully," adding that he was nominated "the conductor, but the orchestra will work together to make great music."
Atias and Yishai were allocated to head the party's parliamentary group and education network, respectively.
There are indications Yishai is bitter about his ouster from party leadership. He failed to show up at Rabbi Yosef's home for morning prayers, as he normally does. "He did not want to come here after he was so humiliated," a Shas activist said.
The appointment completes Deri's return to politics, after he left the party in 1999, when he was sent to prison for corruption charges.
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