JERUSALEM (Sep. 26)
A revolt is brewing in the ultra-Orthodox Shas party over the rapidly widening police investigation of Interior Minister Arye Deri and some of his aides.
Two members of the Shas Knesset faction, Aryeh Gamliel and Yair Levy, said Wednesday they would no longer support the government with their votes, because they object to the way the police and prosecutors are conducting the probe.
Sources within Shas said there is grass-roots pressure on the party leadership to pull its five member Knesset faction out of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s Likud-led coalition.
Although that would make the government a minority regime, opposition politicians have said they would not take advantage of the defection to try to overthrow Shamir’s government.
Gamliel’s parliamentary aide, Yosef Tsuberi, has been in jail for nearly a month in connection with an aspect of the Deri case. The police said Wednesday they would ask the attorney general to extend his remand in custody.
But Gamliel and Levy want him out. They threatened to breach coalition discipline after Gamliel met for an hour with Deri and Shas’ spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.
Deri, a political prodigy who at age 31 is the youngest Cabinet member, has been under police scrutiny for the last four months. His ministry is alleged to have improperly transferred large sums of public money to Shas yeshivas and other institutions around the country.
A parallel investigation, centering on Tsuberi and other ministerial aides, involves illegal wire taps placed on the telephones of a journalist, a police chief and possibly others by private detectives allegedly hired by Deri’s associates.
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So far, Deri and his beleaguered ministerial staff have claimed they are the victims of a political vendetta and refuse to cooperate with the authorities.
The police, meanwhile, have opened an investigation into new allegations against Deri of personal financial improprieties involving, among other things, the sale or purchase of an apartment in Jerusalem.
They arrested Aharon Wiener, an Israeli living in Antwerp, Belgium, as he was about to board a flight home Sunday night. His connection to the Deri case has not been disclosed.
Meanwhile, anger is mounting among the Shas rank and file against Likud Police Minister Ronni Milo, who has been fully supportive of the investigation, and Police Superintendent Ya’acov Terner, who is in charge of it.
Deri supporters have taken out large newspaper ads hinting anti-Orthodox, anti-Sephardic bias on the part of the police brass, Shas is a Sephardic power base.
Some 10,000 of the party’s supporters gathered in Tel Aviv’s Yad Eliahu stadium Wednesday night for a mass prayer and repentance rally. Rabbi Yosef and other members of the party’s Council of Sages were to speak.