Shas held its first official election rally Sunday, under the joint leadership of Aryeh Deri, Eli Yishai and Ariel Atias. Some 1,000 supporters attended the rally.
Despite the attempt to show a united façade, tensions between Yishai and Deri were palpable, mainly over the fact that with only four days left for all parties to submit their rosters ahead of January's elections, Shas has yet to name its official chairman.
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The three agreed to share the party's leadership following a decree to that effect by Shas' spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef; but they cannot share the top spot "on paper," i.e. as far as the Central Election Committee is concerned.
Shas supporters attending the Haifa gathering seemed to favor Deri, chanting his name and hoisting posters bearing his image.
Yishai (L), Deri (M) and Atias (Photo: Gil Nechushtan)
Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who was the first to address the crowd, was interrupted several times by Deri supporters.
"Shas is the weaker echelons' Iron Dome," Yishai said.
"I'm emotional becase I was lucky enough to come home," Deri said to roaring applause.
Shas, he told the crowd, "Wants to promote two agendas in the coming elections – the social one and the Jewish one." His words met a standing ovation.
Standing out within the crowd was a group of about 30 Shas supporters from the Israeli-Arab town of Kafr Manda, in the Lower Galilee.
"We support Aryeh Deri and we will follow him," Shas supporter Walid Taha told Ynet. "We love Deri because he looks at Jews and Arabs as equals."
Deri addressed the group in his speech, asking them to lobby for Shas within the Israeli-Arab voting public.
"You vote for the Arab parties and they usually support the Palestinian Authority and fail to take care of the Arab public in Israel, Deri said.
"Shas is the only party that cares about the Arab public, the public – regardless of race or ethnicity,"
Lior El-Chai is a Ynet and Yedioth Ahronoth correspondent
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