To understand just how realistic is the prediction that the January 22 elections will result in a Labor-led coalition, with Shelly Yachimovich as prime minister, you must become acquainted with a traumatic event in Israel’s political history, which has come to be known as HaTargil HaMasriach – the stinky maneuver.
It was the late Yitzhak Rabin who awarded the above maneuver its aromatic name. It described a 1990 attempt by Rabin’s eternal rival inside the Labor party, Shimon Peres, to create a narrow, leftist coalition partnership with the Haredi parties.
The trick almost succeeded, but was blocked finally, believe it or not, by the late Lubavitcher Rebbe. We’ll deal with that parsha further down in this report, but, for now, just keep in mind that when you ask the average Israeli who was old enough to follow the news back then about the stinky maneuver, he or she would cite three names: Shimon Peres, Haim Ramon, and Aryeh Deri.
Disturbingly, all three men are today in positions of power, although two of them, Ramon and Deri, have been convicted by criminal court—Deri for embezzling, Ramon for sex without consent—to manufacture yet another stinky maneuver, and this time the numbers are on their side.
Last week, MK Michael Ben Ari of Power for Israel took the podium at a conference of party activists to attack not his favorite target on the right—Bibi Netanyahu—or on the left—take your pick—but the Shas party. And more specifically, Aryeh Deri, a member of the leadership triumvirate who is considered to be the real power at the helm.
According to Ben Ari, in the current situation in Israel’s politics, with two distinct blocks vying for the voter’s chit, Aryeu Deri is perfectly capable of scrambling all of Bibi’s best laid plans for a right-leaning or even left-leaning coalition, and deliver Shas over to the leftist block.
“It’s no secret that Aryeh Deri is deep inside the left,” Ben Ari said. “His friends, led by Haim Ramon, are clearly leftists. The daily Yedioth Aharaonoth is pinning its hopes on him as the left’s great, last hope, while the leftist papers have turned him into their “etrog,” and have forgiven him his serious corruption convictions.”
Ben Ari added: We’ve already been to that scenario where Deri took votes from the right and handed them over to the left. Today this is an obvious thing, which he himself is not denying.”
In a statement to The Jewish Press, MK Ben Ari advised anyone planning to vote for Shas, “if they’re really looking to vote for someone who is loyal to the Torah, to vote for Power for Israel.”
“Unfortunately, the cowboy [Deri] is back on the range,” Ben Ari added, “and he hasn’t been concealing his intentions.”
Perhaps to allay his party voters’ fears regarding such a possibility, on Saturday’s “Meet the Press” on Channel 2, Deri called on Prime Minister Netanyahu to immediately invite him to negotiate the next coalition government. “Call me,” Deri invited Bibi, looking at the cameras, “I will come to your house and we’ll decide about [Shas] entering the government.”
In response, Likud-Beitenu came after Deri with both fists pounding: “The public should remember Deri’s association with the left during the Oslo Accords. Those who vote Shas may find it in a coalition with the Left.”
Deri seems to have forgotten the Likud’s partner, the largely Russian-born Israel Beitenu, led by former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman. Just days ago, Shas was forced by the Knesset elections committee to take down their commercial showing a blonde, goyish looking Russian bride, who under the chupah receives her Jewish conversion by fax. That slight will not make for warm ties between Liberman and Deri, even if the latter actually ends up inside Netanyahu’s government.
In response, Deri told Yedioth that “this is not appropriate. We’re hearing Likud accusations of having contacts with the left, while they are not willing to sit with us. Was it because Netanyahu himself is planning a center-left coalition? Instead of attacking us, let them declare whether or not they want to go with us or with the center-left.”
“Despite all the occupations with the health of [Rav Ovadia Yosef, who suffered a minor stroke], I am prepared to start talks even tonight,” Deri added, explaining that the chupah commercial was not intended as a slight against Russian immigrants: “Our commercial is light and satirical, and doesn’t utter a bad word against anyone.”