Shas chairman MK Aryeh Deri rules over the party with an iron fist, MK Nissim Ze'ev stated Saturday night, in the first public interview the MK gave after Deri ousted him from the party list for supporting rival MK, Yachad-Ha'am Itanu leader Eli Yishai.
"I think he is a pathetic man," Ze'ev said, in an interview with Walla! News. "He lives an obsessive life, and that's how he's breaking down the party, destroying it."
"Deri thinks I left Shas," Ze'ev, one of the original founders of Shas, added. "While I may not be in the Knesset, I have not truly left Shas, and Shas has not truly left me."
Ze'ev then described the atmosphere in the party under Deri's leadership, and spared no words.
"Current Shas MKs do not have geheinom (roughly the Jewish equivalent of purgatory – ed.) in the afterlife; they live through agony every day that they receive through Aryeh Deri," Ze'ev said. "They have no geheinom. I know what it's like to live with this man."
Former Shas chairman Eli Yishai's resignation and his establishment of a new party bothered Ze'ev, but he adds that he "understands" why Yishai – who reportedly had faced death threats from Deri supporters for months – had left.
"Yishai had the wrong tactics, I said it all along," he said. "He should have stayed with us, so that the Shas movement was not dismantled [. . .] we had the ability, when he was together with us, to stay in Shas and rebuild the party from the ground up."
"Politically, most of us were very united and Deri could not break this unity," Ze'ev added. "But after he [Yishai] left, I understood why he did it."
Deri repeatedly makes decisions without consulting other party members, Ze'ev revealed.
"If you decide to cut off the heads of the people who have served the public for many years and you send them home, there should be another opinion, another position, someone else should tell you whether you're right or not right [before you do," Ze'ev fired, implying as well that Deri did not consult with the ruling Shas Council of Torah Sages before his own dismissal. "We know he does not consult with anyone, only himself."
Ze'ev also slammed Deri for swooping in and stealing the party from its founders, as he put it, after 32 years of being with the party – especially after noting that Deri told him before dismissing him that he was being booted for expressing support for Yishai during a radio interview and for refusing to state that Yishai had been dishonest when, to his knowledge, Yishai had done no such thing.
Deri's supporters came to Ze'ev complaining after the fact, telling Ze'ev that he was against Shas for not agreeing to the slander against Yishai.
"My culture of speech is not something I'll learn from Aryeh Deri," Ze'ev responded.
Ze'ev turned down the chance to join Yishai's Ha'am Itanu, however, stating that he felt it would be an insult to the party he started, even if the same party had booted him from its ranks.
"I am loyal to Shas," he said, noting he is a "man of ideology."
"It's not about Deri. It's not his movement."
Both Yishai and Deri were appointed as co-chairs of the Shas party, along with MK Ariel Atias, before the last elections, but the Council of Torah Sages, then headed by the late Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, later ruled that Deri will be Shas chairman, further fueling the conflict between the two.
The long-standing rivalry between them resurfaced after Rabbi Yosef’s death, when Yishai was reportedly advised against attending the rabbi’s memorial service, due to political pressures from Deri.