Shas spir­i­tual leader backs Deri in scan­dal over leaked phone con­ver­sa­tion

Jerusalem Post - - NEWS - • By JEREMY SHARON

Rabbi Shalom Co­hen, the spir­i­tual leader of the Shas move­ment, has pub­licly given his back­ing to Shas party chair­man and In­te­rior Min­is­ter Arye Deri fol­low­ing the leak of a recorded phone con­ver­sa­tion that has caused Deri con­sid­er­able em­bar­rass­ment.

In the con­ver­sa­tion, broad­casted by Chan­nel 2 News, Deri re­ferred to Jerusalem Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar as sim­ply “Amar,” without his rab­binic ti­tle, and ap­peared to be re­mon­strat­ing some­what un­suc­cess­fully with Co­hen’s son Yaakov.

Deri was roundly crit­i­cized for dis­re­spect­ing Amar by fail­ing to re­fer to him with his ti­tle, as is cus­tom­ary within the re­li­gious com­mu­nity, while it was also noted that Deri’s iron grip over the di­rec­tion of Shas ap­peared to have loos­ened given his at­tempt to per­suade Yaakov Co­hen to adopt his po­si­tion.

The two were dis­cussing ef­forts led by Yaakov Co­hen to ease po­lit­i­cal di­vi­sions among the Sephardi Haredi com­mu­nity and to rec­on­cile with Amar, who has be­come a staunch enemy of Deri de­spite pre­vi­ously hav­ing been ex­tremely close to the late, revered Rabbi Ova­dia Yosef who led Shas un­til his death in 2013.

“Be­hold, I give my sup­port to our faith­ful emis­sary who works for the sake of Heaven, who re­spects and ap­pre­ci­ates our rab­bis and the merit of many rests in his hands, our friend Rabbi Arye Deri, whom I have known for a long time and whose fear [of Heaven] pre­cedes his wis­dom, and his wis­dom is great,” Shalom Co­hen wrote in a let­ter pub­lished Wed­nes­day night.

“He is the only one who is au­tho­rized to speak in my name and in the name of the holy move­ment... And he con­sults us on all mat­ters and does not move from our in­struc­tions,” he said.

Co­hen has al­ways been known to be a strong sup­porter of Deri and backed him when he re­turned from his po­lit­i­cal ex­ile, dur­ing and fol­low­ing his im­pris­on­ment for bribery, to take back the party lead­er­ship from then-Shas chair­man Eli Yishai.

It is this strong re­la­tion­ship which made the recorded phone call be­tween Deri and Yaakov Co­hen more sur­pris­ing, since the lat­ter was ad­vanc­ing a pol­icy of po­lit­i­cal re­union which Deri was ar­dently against.

On Wed­nes­day, Yaakov Co­hen filed a com­plaint to the po­lice that his phone had been il­le­gally wire­tapped and a pri­vate con­ver­sa­tion had been recorded and dis­sem­i­nated.

Mem­bers of Shas have claimed that a con­fi­dant of Amar was some­how able to wire­tap Yaakov Co­hen’s phone and em­bar­rass both him and Deri.

Is­rael Hayom re­ported on Wed­nes­day, how­ever, that Deri and his as­so­ci­ates blame Yaakov Co­hen en­tirely and ac­cuse him of hav­ing leaked the record­ing.

Yaakov Co­hen has stren­u­ously de­nied this, say­ing that he did not even know how to record a phone call. He said it was pos­si­ble that a pre­vi­ous phone he had used had “recorded phone calls au­to­mat­i­cally and that, when it was taken to the lab for re­pairs, me­dia were ex­tracted from it and dis­sem­i­nated by hos­tile and evil ele­ments who have been try­ing to harm the holy move­ment.”

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