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Shas bill aims to amend law, legitimize Deri’s appointment as minister

Draft legislation argues limiting a person’s ability to become a minister should depend on active prison term, not a suspended sentence such as that handed to Deri

Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu and Shas chief Aryeh Deri at the swearing-in ceremony of the 25th Knesset, at the parliament building in Jerusalem, November 15, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/ Flash90)
Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu and Shas chief Aryeh Deri at the swearing-in ceremony of the 25th Knesset, at the parliament building in Jerusalem, November 15, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/ Flash90)

Shas MK Moshe Arbel submitted a bill Thursday that, if passed, would allow party leader Aryeh Deri to serve as a minister in the next government despite a recent criminal conviction.

Under current law, Deri’s tax offense conviction earlier this year, which included a suspended jail sentence, makes it difficult to appoint him to a ministerial position. The Shas chief will need to appeal to the Central Elections Committee to approve his appointment, and the latter could refuse.

The bill seeks to amend current law to allow individuals who have not served active prison terms over the past seven years to be appointed ministers.

Deri pled guilty in January as part of an agreement with prosecutors that also saw him resign from the Knesset. Deri’s resignation from parliament enabled him to dodge a conviction of moral turpitude which would have barred him from returning to office for several years.

The new bill argues that limiting a person’s ability to become a minister should depend on whether or not that person actually served time in jail. It notes that MKs and other holders of public office are not subject to the same limitations currently set for ministers.

“The amendment is meant to create certainty and clarity, and to allow for legislative harmony between policies applied to ministers and those applied to MKs and local authority officials, thus maintaining and ensuring the right to be appointed minister,” the bill reads.

The bill will likely face legal challenges.

Shas parliament member Moshe Arbel attend an emergency conference on disasters at construction sites, at the Knesset, on May 27, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Meanwhile Channel 12 reported that Deri’s lawyers have prepared a 12-page legal document that argues that the current law should also apply only to individuals sentenced to prison time.

Deri is said to be adamant about heading the Treasury in the next government. His ultra-Orthodox Shas party has long positioned itself as a social welfare party.

This has caused difficulties for prospective prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The head of the far-right Religious Zionism party is also reportedly demanding either the Treasury or the Defense portfolio, with the Likud leader loath to give him the latter and Deri insisting on the former.

Shas chairman Aryeh Deri leaves a meeting with Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu at a hotel in Jerusalem on November 16, 2022. (Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90)

Deri’s January conviction was his second conviction during his political career.

He previously served 22 months in prison from 2000 to 2002, after he was convicted of taking bribes while serving as interior minister. That verdict carried moral turpitude.

In 2013, he returned to politics, reclaiming the leadership of Shas and ultimately returning to serve as interior minister from 2016 until last year, when his party entered the opposition. A court had ruled that his prior conviction did not disqualify him from the position.

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