Shas (Shomrei Ha-Torah Ha-Sepharadim in Hebrew, Meaning "Sephardi Torah Guardians")

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SHAS (Shomrei ha-Torah ha-Sepharadim in Hebrew, meaning "Sephardi Torah Guardians.")

UltraOrthodox Israeli religious party, created in 1983 following a split within Agudat Israel that exemplifies the opposition that existed between Sephardim and Ashkenazim. SHAS, whose Sephardi electorate was positioned on the right, supported a greater Judaization of Israeli society while declaring itself in favor of territorial compromise with the Palestinians. When it was created the two religious authorities of SHAS, rabbis Ovadiah Yosef and Eliezer Schach, asked Arye Deri to turn the party into a real political force. Thereupon, as a result of the elections of 1984, SHAS won four seats in the Knesset and Deri was named director general of the ministry of the interior, the minister being the president of SHAS, Yitzhak Peretz, in the cabinet of Shimon Peres.

In only a few years, SHAS was able to greatly expand its educational and social network. In the elections of 1988, the party won six Knesset seats. Three of its members joined the government of Yitzhak Shamir: Arye Deri as minister of the interior, Yitzhak Peretz as minister of immigration, and Yosef Azran as deputy minister of finance. In 1990, tensions surfaced in the party between its principal leaders, resulting in the departure of Peretz, who created his own group, Moriah. In June of the same year, after a reshuffle in the Shamir cabinet, another SHAS member, Rafael Pinhasi, joined the government as communications minister.

In September 1993, Arye Deri, while he was the subject of legal proceedings for corruption, resigned his post in the ministry of the interior. The other SHAS ministers quit the government, rejoining it in March of the following year. In February 1995, the four SHAS ministers belonging to the cabinet of Yitzhak Rabin once more resigned, and the leadership of the party reproached the government for its lack of resolve in the struggle against terrorism. In the elections of May 1996, SHAS obtained ten Knesset seats, confirming its place in Israeli politics. Because of the party's strong support for the candidacy of Benjamin Netanyahu for the post of prime minister, two of its leaders joined his government: Eli Suissa as minister of the interior and Eli Ishai as minister of labor. In the municipal elections of 10 November 1998, the party won fifteen seats of the thirty-one in the municipality of Jerusalem, allowing it to strengthen its control over the religious institutions of the Holy City.

On 17 March 1999, after a difficult trial lasting several months, Arye Deri was judged guilty of corruption, abuse of confidence, and fraud during his term in the ministry of the interior and sentenced to four years in prison. After the May general elections, in spite of the trial of its leader, SHAS found itself in an even stronger position, with seventeen Knesset seats. On 15 June, with his condemnation obstructing negotiations on SHAS joining the Labor government of Ehud Barak, Deri resigned from his functions as head of the party. On 6 July six party members joined the government of Barak. On 21 June 2000, constant disagreement between the SHAS ministers and those of Meretz forced the latter to quit the government. On 9 July SHAS, with the National Religious Party (NRP) and Israel B'Aliyah, resigned from the Barak government, reproaching it for the concessions it was preparing to make to the Palestinians during the talks at Camp David. The departure of these three parties meant that the Barak cabinet commanded only a minority in the Knesset.

On 9 January 2001, in the elections for the post of prime minister, SHAS supported Likud's candidate, Ariel Sharon. On the following 7 March, after Sharon's victory, SHAS entered the new national unity government, obtaining five ministries (interior, labor, social affairs, health, and religion). In the 2003 elections it won eleven seats in the Knesset.

SEE ALSO Agudat Israel; Ashkenazi; Deri, Arye; Moriah; National Religious Party; Peres, Shimon; Peretz, Yitzhak; Rabin, Yitzhak; Shamir, Yitzhak; Schach, Eliezer; Sephardi; Suissa, Eli; Yosef, Ovadiah.