SHAS (Sephardi Torah Guardians ), Israeli political party. Shas was established in 1984 before the elections to the Eleventh Knesset, in protest over the small representation of Sephardim in the ḥaredi*Agudat Israel, and with the support of Rabbi Eliezer Menaḥem *Shach. Shas' spiritual leader from the very start was former Chief Sephardi Rabbi Ovadiah *Yosef, who established a seven-member Council of Torah Sages. At first the party's political leader was Rabbi Yitzhak Ḥayyim Peretz. True to its slogan of "restoring the pristine splendor" (Haḥzarat Atarah le-Yoshnah) Shas established an independent education system called El ha-Ma'ayan, and started to actively engage in bringing members of the Sephardi community back to religion. In the elections to the Eleventh Knesset Shas won four seats, compared to Agudat Israel's two, receiving not only the support of ḥaredi voters, but also of many traditional voters. While Shas followed an extreme policy on issues of religion and state, at first it followed a moderate policy on the peace issue, after Yosef had declared that lives were more important than territories.
Shas joined the National Unity Government formed in 1984, and Peretz was appointed minister of the interior. He resigned in January 1987 over the Shoshana (Susan) Miller affair, after the High Court of Justice ruled that Ms. Miller be registered in her ID card as Jewish, even though she has been converted to Judaism by a Reform rabbi. The Ministry of the Interior was now run by the director general of the ministry, Aryeh *Deri. Peretz later returned to the government as minister without portfolio.
In the elections to the Twelfth Knesset in 1988, Shas won six seats, and once again joined the National Unity Government, in which Deri, now officially recognized as the political leader of Shas, was appointed minister of the interior. It was Deri, in collusion with Haim *Ramon of the *Israel Labor Party, who helped Shimon *Peres bring down the government in March 1990, when five of Shas' mks were absent during a vote on a motion of no-confidence in the government. But after Peres failed to establish a new government, Shas joined the new right-wing–religious government established by Yitzhak *Shamir.
In the elections to the Thirteenth Knesset in 1992 Shas retained its six seats, and despite allegations of mismanagement of funds by the party's educational institutions and charges of corruption against several of its Knesset members, Prime Minister Yitzhak *Rabin included Shas as the only religious party in his government, offering Shas many of the power positions previously held by the *National Religious Party. After a prolonged struggle, Shas managed to bring about the removal of Shulamit *Aloni from the Ministry of Education and Culture. However, external pressures and criminal charges brought against Deri that resulted in demands by the attorney general that he resign, led to its resignation from the government in August 1993, one month before the signing of the Declaration of Principles with the plo in Washington. Efforts to bring Shas back into the government failed. Nevertheless, it joined Ramon's new list in the *Histadrut elections in May 1994, and was thus a partner to the revolutionary changes in the Histadrut that followed.
In the elections to the Fourteenth Knesset in 1996, Shas, still under Deri's political leadership, but now less dovish than before, garnered 10 Knesset seats and joined the government formed by Binyamin *Netanyahu, even though Deri himself was not given a ministerial post. Deri was, nevertheless, allegedly involved in the attempts to get Ronnie Bar-On appointed attorney general. In the elections to the Fifteenth Knesset in 1999, Shas, now under the political leadership of Rabbi Eliahu (Eli) Yishai, received a record 17 seats. Shas joined the government formed by Ehud *Barak, but left over Barak's willingness to make far-reaching concessions to the Palestinian Authority. It then joined the government formed by Ariel *Sharon after he won in the elections for prime minister held in 2001. In the elections to the Sixteenth Knesset held in 2003, Shas lost six of its seats to the Likud. This was due to the departure of Deri from the political scene, divisions in the Sephardi ḥaredi camp, a deterioration in Shas' financial situation, and some embarrassing statements by Rabbi Yosef in the course of his weekly lessons. Shas remained outside the new government formed by Sharon, and despite talks held with the Likud at the end of 2004 and the beginning of 2005 about a possible entry of Shas into the government after the departure of the National Union, the nrp, and Shinui, Shas, believing that early elections lay ahead, chose to remain outside. In the course of the Sixteenth Knesset Shas opposed the government both over Netanyahu's economic policy that greatly reduced social transfer payments, and especially child support benefits, and over Sharon's disengagement policy. In the March 2006 elections to the Seventeenth Knesset, Shas received 12 seats and rejoined the government with four cabinet posts, including Yishai as minister of industry, trade and labor.
M. Friedman, Ha-Ḥevrah ha-Ḥaredit (1991); H. Nir'el, Tenu'at ha-Sephardim Shomrei ha-Torah – Shas: Hithavvuto shel Shesa'a Ada'ati Dati ba-Migzar ha-Ḥaredi (1992); M. Rahat, Shas – Ha-Ru'ah ve-ha-Ko'aḥ: Eikh Niẓḥah Shas et ha-Politikah ha-Yisra'elit (1998); A. Dayan, Ha-Ma'ayan ha-Mitgaber: Sippurah shel Tenu'at Shas (1999); Y. Peled, Shas: Etgar ha-Yisra'eliyyut (2001); R. Tesler, Beshem ha-Shem: Shas ve-ha-Mahapekhah ha-Datit (2003); Y. Lupo, Ha-Im Taḥzir Shas Atarah le-Yoshnah (2004).