Columnist Amotz Asa-El is troubled by Arye Deri’s return to public life,
perceiving it as something dangerous.
Why? Maybe because Deri, a
thoughtful, intelligent man possessing wide experience and blessed with many
talents, is a moderate who might serve as a bridge between Right and Left,
moderate and extremist, religious and secular – a clear strategic threat to the
Deri was punished for crimes committed 20 years ago. Does this
warrant his exclusion from public affairs for the rest of his life? Asa-El might
think so, but the court thought otherwise. Following lengthy deliberations and
having weighed the various aspects of the case, the court ruled that after a set
number of years had elapsed, he could again run for public office.
is no such thing as conditional democracy; you either accept it, with all its
rules and regulations, even when it isn’t convenient to do so, or you reject it.
Following the court’s ruling, it is the Israeli public alone which has the right
to decide whether and in what capacity Deri is worthy to serve it
Indeed, it appears this is precisely what Asa-El is afraid of. In
a remarkable display of arrogance, he seeks to protect the Israeli public from
itself by doing its thinking for it.
It is also unclear why Asa-El found
it necessary to bring up Deri’s Moroccan heritage – or, for that matter, Avigdor
Liberman’s Russian heritage.
From the Moroccans to the Russians, every
wave of aliya has experienced discrimination, following in the footsteps of the
Jews from Arab countries who, arriving in the 1950s shortly after the creation
of the state, were diverted to the periphery of the country.
head in the sand, Asa-El refuses to acknowledge the root of this
Can he really argue that in the race of life, a child from
Netivot or Karmiel and a child from north Tel Aviv or Herzliya start off on even
footing? Even if the child from Netivot has a similar economic and educational
background to his Herzliyan compatriot, everyone knows that he’s got a much
longer road ahead of him.
During the 13 years Deri was absent from public
life, one might reasonably have expected Asa-El, and those like him, to have
made some progress toward eliminating such disparities. But, lo and behold, they
have only gotten worse.
It’s no coincidence that Asa-El ignores Deri’s
statements to the media, such as “poverty has no color and doesn’t wear a kippa”
or that all the have-nots in the country deserve a “social safety net,” that
this country is too small to suffer disparities so large.
As a final
note, Asa-El’s article was originally published in English in The Jerusalem Post
Magazine 11 months ago. It has now been re-published in French, and it wouldn’t
be surprising if, a few months down the road, he publishes a Chinese
After all, that’s just the way creative people like him
The writer is a strategic adviser to Arye Deri.
Arye Deri’s moderation and abilities as a bridge-builder have sadly
lost relevance since his conviction.
As for the conviction, it is
refreshing to see Mr. Deri’s adviser admit that his boss was “punished for
crimes committed 20 years ago,” because Deri himself has never confessed his
felonies. That undermines the very legal system that is the foundation of the
democracy that Mr. Levy claims to hail.
As for the court’s ruling, it was
not that Deri should or should not be restored to the public sphere, because the
court – rather than pass moral judgment – only interprets the law, which indeed
allows Deri to run now. The moral judgment is left for us voters, and it was the
voter whom I prodded in my column to vote for anyone other than a convicted
Concerning Deri’s geographic origin, it is he, not I, who makes it
an issue, indeed an ideal, so much so that “Sephardi” is part of his ticket’s
name, and Shas’s faction does not sport even one token
Finally, Levy’s lamentation of the social state of the
“periphery” would be more convincing had Shas’s schools equipped their students
with the English, math, biology, history and the rest of the secular tools that
are prerequisites for making it in today’s world.
To best understand
this, Levy and Deri should look to Israelis like Delek Chairman Yitzhak Tshuva,
FIBI Holdings’ owner Tzadik Bino, insurance magnate Shlomo Eliyahu, supermarket
entrepreneur Rami Levy, linguist Prof. Moshe Bar-Asher, historian David Ohana,
economist Shlomo Maoz, actor Moshe Ivgi or novelist Amnon Shamush, to mention
but a few of the countless self-made products of the Middle Eastern immigrations
who made it big here thanks to the opportunities that veteran Israel offered
Not one of these backs Shas, or sends his children to its schools.