In about a month, Aryeh Deri’s seven bad years will draw to an end. The “period of moral turpitude’ in the wake of his conviction will end. His sins will expire in legal terms. There will no longer be anything preventing him from competing for public office.
His failed attempt in the fall to compete for the post of Jerusalem’s mayor proves that he longs for public service. This former yeshiva student, who stormed into the center of the political arena before being sent off in an even bigger storm, is dreaming about a comeback. The question is whether Shas fans are also dreaming about the same?
If they are, it is a great pity. Deri, their formerly admired hero, brought great shame to them at the end of the day. He was not convicted of Torah-related infringements, but rather, of corruption sins.
Those who still believe that the legal establishment picked on him because of racist or religious motives may have failed to notice that even Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Shas’ spiritual leader, eventually accepted the legal establishment’s findings.
No reason to replace Yishai
The rabbi indeed screamed loudly that Deri is not guilty, yet at the end of the day he pushed Deri out of the circle of his close associates. This would not have happened had Rabbi Ovadia been convinced of Deri’s innocence. Eli Yishai was elected as the Shas party’s permanent chairman in place of Deri; he was not made a temporary replacement.
At this time, there is no reason to replace Yishai with Deri and bring Shas back to the days of questionable glory. Shas indeed grew somewhat smaller in the wake of Deri’s retirement, yet in this case we can apply the Talmudic dictum ruling that shrinking can be a good thing.
Yishai is more loyal to the values of modesty and simplicity that his movement makes pretenses of conveying. He also represents well the worldview of Shas voters on matters of war, peace, and the territories. In his resume, there are no dirty schemes.
If we see a dirty trick being formulated against him, similar to the infamous 1992 “dirty trick” involving Shas’ and Labor’s bid to topple the government, Shas will regret it just like it regretted the previous one.