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Leader Eli Yishai
Founded 1984 (1984)
Headquarters Jerusalem, Israel
Ideology Yalkut Yosef,
Haredi Sephardi and Mizrahi Judaism,
Populism, Religious conservatism
International affiliation Various Sephardi Batei Dinim, American/World Sephardic Federation
Ballot letters שס
Seats in Knesset 11
Politics of Israel
Political parties

Shas (Hebrew: ש״ס‎) is a political party in Israel, primarily representing Haredi Sephardi and Mizrahi Judaism. Following the 2009 elections in which Shas won 11 seats, it joined Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition government and holds four cabinet posts. Its current leader, Eli Yishai, is one of four Deputy Prime Ministers, and Minister of Internal Affairs.



Shas was founded in 1984 prior to the elections in the same year, through the merger of regional lists established in 1983. A Sephardi offshoot of the largely-Ashkenazi Agudat Yisrael, it was originally known as The Worldwide Sephardic Association of Torah Guardians (Hebrew: התאחדות הספרדים העולמית שומרי תורה‎, Hitahdut HaSfaradim HaOlamit Shomrei Torah). The party was formed under the leadership of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (a former Israeli Chief rabbi), who remains its spiritual leader today. In founding the party, Yosef received strategic help and guidance from Rabbi Elazar Shach, the leader of Israel's non-Hasidic Haredi Ashkenazi Jews

The party was mired in scandal after the indictment and subsequent conviction and imprisonment of its former party leader, Aryeh Deri, on corruption charges in 1999. While Yosef distanced the party from Deri and installed Yishai as the new party head, many Shas voters saw Deri as the victim of a discriminatory political witch-hunt and continue to support him.

Following Deri's conviction, Shas gained 17 seats in the 1999 elections, its strongest showing since its formation. Although 26 seats were projected for the following election had they run in 2001, instead Shas was reduced to 11 seats in the 2003 election because the two-ballot system was amended. In the 2006 elections it gained one more seat and joined Ehud Olmert's coalition government, alongside Kadima, Labor, Gil and between October 2006 and January 2008, Yisrael Beiteinu. In the current government, Shas party leader Yishai was Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor, and Deputy Prime Minister whilst Ariel Atias was Minister of Communications, and Meshulam Nahari and Yitzhak Cohen were Ministers without Portfolio.

After the 2009 elections Shas joined the Likud-led coalition together with Labor, United Torah Judaism and Yisrael Beiteinu, receiving four ministerial portfolios.


Political poster for Shas, featuring Eli Yishai.

Shas is a strong advocate of Halakha playing a pivotal role and providing a fulcrum for the operation of the state and its identity, such as laws prohibiting various activities on the Shabbat. Shas has a socially conservative agenda, while also supporting generous welfare payments, especially for yeshiva students, as well as supporting the Baal Teshuva movement, through which it has encouraged many non-Orthodox Israelis of Sephardic and Mizrahi-Jewish heritage to adopt an ultra-Orthodox Jewish lifestyle. Its policy regarding the Israeli Arab conflict has been relatively flexible, although it generally supports the Greater Israel consolidation movement united under the crown of the Mizrahi Torah, in accordance to HaMaran Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's flexible foreign policy derivatives. They have never taken active measures to support the Gush Emunim movement and do not strongly favor the Israeli settlements, on which they are closer in policy to Agudat Yisrael than the Tkuma or Jewish National Front. Furthermore, it is also skeptical about Non-Observant Ashkenazi Jews being at the helm of State affairs, due to principly their 'assumed' reported discrimination against Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews in the early days of Israel's Statehood, as well as opposing their non-Torah ideology. It defines itself as "social democratic" and has some leftist paper positions on economic issues. [1]

Shas has at times been able to exert disproportionate influence by gaining control of the balance of power in the Knesset within the context of the traditionally narrow margin between Israel's large parties, Labor and Likud, now joined by Kadima.

The majority of Shas voters are themselves not ultra-orthodox. Many of its voters are Modern Orthodox and 'traditional' Mizrahi and Sephardi Jews. Some Druze also vote for Shas, due to its alignment with the promotion of an 'authentic Middle Eastern' Israeli culture, which fits well with traditional Zionist beliefs of a revival of authentic, non-Europeanized Jewish culture. However, they are still representing, by principle and not practice, their Sephardi and Mizrahi Haredi Jewish Sectors in the Knesset.

It furthermore also demands and endorses an immediate compensation package for those Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews that were forced to leave their host countries and their subsequent property, as well as other connurbations, behind. This clause being fulfilled by Arab Countries in any Bilateral Peace Agreement is a hard condition for Shas being willing to accept any peace deal with the PLO.

Shas came joint third in the 2006 general election, taking 12 seats after running an aggressive campaign that targeted the neo-conservative economic policies of the previous government. Shas generally acts in concert with United Torah Judaism in defense of religious educational institutions and state benefits.[1]

In 2010, Shas joined the World Zionist Organisation, recognising the New Jerusalem Program, which prioritises the high importance of Jerusalem and the Land of Israel in Jewish National Life. They will run under a grouping with Likud called 'World Likud-Shas'. Thus, Shas is now a 'Zionist Party', having made significant changes to their Charter[2].


Since 1999, several of Shas's MKs, including Aryeh Deri, Rafael Pinhasi, Yair Lev, Ofer Hugi and Yair Peretz have been convicted of offences including fraud and forgery. In addition, elected MK Shlomo Benizri was convicted of bribery, conspiring to commit a crime and obstruction of justice on 1 April 2008.[2] Benizri subsequently resigned and Mazor Bahaina, number thirteen on the Shas list, replaced him.

Current Knesset members

Shas party ballot 2009

Eleven Shas candidates were elected to the 18th Knesset:

  1. Eli Yishai
  2. Ariel Atias
  3. Yitzhak Cohen
  4. Amnon Cohen
  5. Meshulam Nahari
  6. Ya'akov Margi
  7. David Azulai
  8. Yitzhak Vaknin
  9. Nissim Ze'ev
  10. Emil Amsalem
  11. Avraham Michaeli


External links



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