Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Shas party leader Aryeh Deri, June 3, 2021.

“I have a lot of criticism of Netanyahu,” said Shas chairman Aryeh Deri in an interview on Army Radio Thursday morning. “It was his huge mistake—and mine for not fighting him—to dismantle the current unity government, which was a great government.”

Deri has been a loyal supporter of the prime minister and still believes he should be at the helm, but he is honest enough to point out that Bibi’s worst political enemy is not Naftali Bennett, or Yair Lapid, or even Avigdor Liberman. It’s Bibi.

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The entire whirlwind of the past two years during which Israel went to the polls four times began with a gamble of the Likud PM, borne by his hubris. The polls were giving him amazing numbers in the next election should he choose to disperse the Knesset and run. From his 30 MKs at the time he was promised as many as 40 in the next round. And he was facing serious problems that made breaking up and starting from scratch look so reasonable on December 24, 2018.

Netanyahu’s long-time coalition partner and defense minister Avigdor Liberman (Israel Beiteinu) walked away from his portfolio and the coalition over what he claimed were the PM’s restrictions on his Gaza Strip policy. And then it became clear that an IDF draft proposal that was favored by the Haredi parties didn’t have a chance of passing. So Netanyahu took a gamble. And the next two elections ended in a virtual tie. But then, using enough smoke and mirrors to supply the haunted house at a county fair, Netanyahu managed to come up with a rotation government with Benny Gantz and the Haredim, the one Deri said was a great government.

The two halves of the rotation government, Likud and Blue&White, fought to the death over whether the state budget would cover one or two years. Likud insisted on one year, presumably because then they won’t have been required to live up to their word to hand the keys to Gantz the following year, crash the whole thing and go for new elections with a budget. Blue&White were not born yesterday, so they insisted on a two-year budget. So the Knesset was dispersed in keeping with the law that says it has to if there’s no budget.

And then Bibi failed to cobble a new government because, frankly, he had made too many enemies on the left but especially on the right, none of whom believed a word he said, and all of whom just wanted him out.

The new government, whose central value is that it has no Netanyahu onboard, is expected to be sworn in this coming Sunday at 4 PM. Deri promised: “We will overthrow this government very quickly. They just want to see Netanyahu being evacuated with crates.”

Two days ago, United Torah Judaism held a press conference in which its leaders attacked Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett viciously. Construction Minister Yaakov Litzman, said: “I’m saying to Naftali Bennett: you don’t have to hide the yarmulke, you can remove it, like your partner and friend Yair Lapid.”

And faction leader MK Moshe Gafni called for a boycott of Yamina party members.

Deri objected to this kind of talk: “We are all Jews, no matter what kind of yarmulke we wear, and no one has the right to say who is not so. That’s not my style.”

“Litzman’s words stem from terrible pain, don’t judge him for those words,” Deri told Army Radio.

Deri also revealed in the interview: “Bennett told me during the negotiations: You are the most suitable for the position of prime minister. The most experienced, why not take it? But I don’t have what it takes to do everything to sit in that chair.”

Remarkable humility from the man who came back from prison and unseated his replacement, the new Shas leader Eli Yishai, in five minutes, practically, give or take a minute…

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.