(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Interior Minister Arye Deri called upon his loyalists in Shas Sunday to refrain from starting a campaign professing his innocence similar to the one that accompanied his unsuccessful effort to avoid jail time the last time he was investigated.
Before Deri began serving two years of a three-year sentence for bribery and breach of trust, he was at the center of a campaign under the slogan “He is innocent” that included rallies and songs. When he entered prison in 2000, his followers started a yeshiva outside the facility.
But his associates decided that Deri would be best served this time by remaining quiet and continuing to do his job. He wrote a letter Sunday giving instructions to his loyalists.
“I ask you not to get involved,” Deri wrote. “Leave it for people who have that job.”
Deri said that he and his family were enduring challenging times, and he was sure his supporters were as well.
“I don’t know what they are investigating,” he confessed. “I get my news from the press, just like you. I did nothing wrong, and as I have said, I will cooperate and answer anything asked of me. Meanwhile, I am continuing to work and to be the address for the public’s needs.”
Deri showed up for Sunday’s cabinet meeting and maintains a full work schedule ahead of questioning under caution that is expected to take place later this week. His brother, attorney Shlomo Deri, is also expected to be questioned.
The Movement for Quality Government and opposition MKs have called for Deri to suspend himself from the Knesset and cabinet, but he does not intend to do so.
“Deri is a cabinet minister under criminal investigation so he must quit,” said Zionist Union MK Nachman Shai, explaining that the head of his party, Isaac Herzog, need not quit because as opposition leader, he is not a decision maker.
Yediot Aharonot reported Sunday that the initial probe against Herzog for alleged campaign fund-raising violations in the 2013 Labor primary was advancing. The newspaper reported that investigators invited for questioning people who were part of Herzog’s campaign team and others with information on contributions and transfers of funds during the primary.
But key members of Herzog’s 2013 campaign team said Sunday night that they had not yet been called in for questioning.
“We want to be questioned so we will finally know what is happening,” said a Herzog aide who was working for him in 2013.
The only one confirmed to have been questioned is his campaign manager from that race, Shimon Batat. Batat became angry at Herzog for not helping him win an election for a post on the Zionist Executive of the World Zionist Organization in October that he lost to Argentina- born Silvio Joskowicz.
Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit is expected to convene his top brass as early as this week to decide whether to advance the initial probe of Herzog into a criminal investigation.
Herzog’s aides have continued blaming the probe on unnamed rivals inside his party.
Zionist Union MK Erel Margalit told Army Radio Sunday that “if lies continued to be distributed” connecting him to the affair, he will file libel lawsuits.”
“I am disappointed because I gave Herzog support, and I got from his staff incitement,” Margalit said, using two words that rhyme in Hebrew.
“Police haven’t called me for questioning, and if they did, I would have nothing to say.”