Rabbi Deri: It’s Either a Right-Wing Government, or New Elections

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Rabbi Aryeh Deri, head of the Shas Party. (Flash90)

As the 21st Knesset was formally sworn in Tuesday, talks – both formal and informal – to form a new government continued, and commenting on those talks, Shas head Rabbi Aryeh Deri said that despite the difficulties, there was no choice but for the Likud’s coalition partners to soldier through to an agreement.

Specifically answering what Deri said were threats by Yisrael Beytenu that it would not accept any compromises on enacting a full draft law that would include yeshivah students, Rabbi Deri said that threats by any party that it would not join the government unless it got its way were unwarranted – and in the end would just make those making the threats look foolish.

“There is no possibility for another government other than the one the Israeli people elected all of the parties on the right for,” Rabbi Deri said at a meeting of Shas MKs before the official seating of MKs. “It’s either this government or new elections. There is no other option. It’s a shame to throw out empty threats and set red lines that will be eventually crossed.”

The bluster coming from the direction of coalition partners that are seeking to reduce the influence of religious parties is misplaced, Deri said. “I am hearing much talk about how we want to set up a ‘halachic state,’ and that is not our intention at all. We are seeking to preserve the status quo on religious matters. It is other groups that are trying to change that” and erode the status quo in a secular direction. “We want a traditional Jewish state, and we will remain firm on that,” he said, adding that Shas would make a special effort to ensure that yeshivos were properly funded, after budgets were pared over the past several years.

In a direct blast at Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman, Rabbi Deri said that “I have appointed [former MK] Ariel Attias to direct our negotiations with the Likud. I have a wonderful relationship with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and I know how to work with him directly. Unlike others, we are conducting our negotiations quietly and behind the scenes, and without trips abroad,” he said, referring to a trip Liberman took to Vienna immediately after the election.” Others are doing it in the media and using threats, this is not a respectable way to negotiate,” he added.