State Attorney Shai Nitzan doesn’t believe he can defend the appointment of Shas leader MK Aryeh Deri as interior minister given Deri’s previous corruption conviction when holding the same office over 20 years ago, it was reported Tuesday.
In internal conversations at the Justice Ministry to review possible responses to a High Court petition against Deri’s appointment, Nitzan is said to have argued that Deri, who was confirmed for the job by a Knesset vote Monday, should be disqualified from the post, Haaretz reported.
Deri resigned from the Interior Ministry in 1993 amid corruption allegations for which he would later serve 22 months in prison.
Deri’s appointment was challenged in a High Court petition by the Movement for Quality Government. The state will be required to defend the appointment when the court hears the appeal.
Nitzan’s reported position puts him at odds with Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, who ruled that there is no legal reason to bar Deri from the ministerial seat.
According to the report, Nitzan made it clear that his doubts about the legality of the appointment were specific to the Interior Ministry, and that any other cabinet post would be more easily defended.
The Justice Ministry declined to comment to the daily about internal discussions.
The Knesset plenum voted Monday 54 to 43 to approve the government’s request to allow the appointment, hours after the High Court of Justice rejected a petition asking to stay the move while appeals are filed against it.
A number of lawmakers also spoke out against Deri’s appointment before the vote, saying someone convicted of a crime that carried moral turpitude should not be allowed to reclaim his post.
Deri took over the Economy Ministry after joining the coalition last year, but dropped the post to avoid being responsible for approving the controversial natural gas reform being advanced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Deri refused to use the economy minister’s legal powers to approve the deal, but promised Netanyahu he “won’t stand in its way.” After resigning as economy minister, he was given the Ministry of Negev, Galilee and the Periphery as a stopgap measure, and will keep that post in addition to the Interior Ministry.