Published 2nd January, 2013
Shas, which is an acronym for Sephardi Torah Guardians was founded in 1984 as a splinter group from the Agudat Yisrael. Shas is an ultra-orthodox religious party and believes in Judaism, Populism and Religious Conservatism.
In 1984 Shas won four seats in the 120 seat Knesset, this went up to six seats in both 1988 and 1992. Following the 1992 election, the party decided to join the coalition of the Israel Labour Party (ILP) and Meretz, but they withdrew in 1993 over the government’s educational policies.
In 1996 the party won 10 seats and took two portfolios in the Likud led government. They did even better in 1999 when they reached their high point and won 17 seats to become the third largest party. They joined the Israel Labour Party government of Ehud Barak, but again withdrew in 2000. By 2001 they were back in the government, but in 2002 Ariel Sharon sacked the Shas ministers and they went into opposition once more.
As a result Sharon was forced to call an election in 2003 where Shas dropped back to 11 seats and remained in opposition. In 2006 the party did marginally better, picking up an extra seat to take their tally to 12 seats and they joined the Likud led government of Ehud Olmert.
In 2009 support for Shas seemed to have settled on them winning seats in the low teens. On this occasion they won 11 seats, making them the fourth largest party and currently they hold four portfolios in Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud led government.