Much-hyped ‘Deri Law' unlikely to be revived

Bill, vetoed by UTJ, prohibits a person convicted of crimes while holding public office from returning to politics.

By
June 24, 2011 02:28
3 minute read.
Arye Deri.

Arye Deri 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

Despite plenty of political discussion, the “Deri Law” showed no sign of being successfully revived on Thursday.

After former Shas leader Arye Deri announced on Wednesday his intention to return to politics, MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) said she would try to promote the bill, which she had proposed with MKs Yariv Levine (Likud), Marina Solodkin (Kadima) and Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) in early 2010.

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The Deri Law, which would ban from national office anyone convicted of a crime reflecting ethical violations and who served a year or more in prison, was vetoed at the time by United Torah Judaism.

“The law lists basic conditions for candidacy, like having to be at least 21 years old and an Israeli citizen. A person who committed crimes while holding public office would not be able to return to politics,” if the bill would pass, Levine explained.

Deri served 22 months in prison for accepting $155,000 in bribes during his tenure as director-general of the Interior Ministry.

Levine said UTJ sent an official letter vetoing the law in 2010, and Israel Beiteinu threatened to do the same, should no other party step forward. UTJ would have to retract its letter in order for the law to be reconsidered.

Following a Channel 10 investigation with possibly incriminating evidence that Lieberman took part in multi-million dollar business transactions during his time in the Knesset and as a minister, Israel Beiteinu is likely to continue rejecting the bill, which could end the foreign minister’s political career, should he be convicted.

Lieberman and Deri are known to be close friends.

Israel Beiteinu would not officially comment on the Deri Law, with a party spokesman saying the bill “has not been brought to any kind of vote yet. We will make a decision when the law is relevant.”

Although most Knesset members would be likely to back the bill, there is little chance it will pass, due to a clause in the current coalition agreement allowing any faction in the coalition to veto a change to a Basic Law. The Deri Law would require amendments to both Basic Law: The Knesset and Basic Law: The Government.

“There isn’t much we can do other than bring it to a vote and put pressure” on the parties in the coalition, Levine said. “There is no justification for a veto. It’s unclear to me how anyone can defend such a stance.”

He added that some have suggested “changing the bill so that anyone who committed a crime in the past would be allowed to run for office,” and only crimes committed after the bill passes would be relevant.

“I think that’s making a mockery of the bill,” Levine said.

“For me, this isn’t the Deri bill.

This is a law about morality and integrity, and when I initiated it, I thought of [former president] Moshe Katsav and [former president] Ehud Olmert,” Solodkin said.

“I think it’s important that the 120 Knesset Members who represent and are responsible for the people of Israel not include such people who committed criminal ethics violations.” Levine, Hotovely and Solodkin all expressed skepticism at the likelihood of the law passing.

However, Levine said he may bring the bill up again “closer to elections, when commitments to the coalition are weaker. Maybe then it’ll pass,” he added.

Meanwhile, current Shas leader and Interior Minister Eli Yishai took to the stage, uninvited, at a panel on conversions during the President’s Conference in Jerusalem, where he made references to the importance of unity, which some interpreted as digs at Deri. “We have to unite around a Jewish, values-driven path,” he said.

Other MKs also expressed opposition to Deri’s return to politics.

Meretz chair MK Ilan Gilon said he “always believed that every citizen should have the right to run for political office, but it is a very sad day for the state if the public chooses to bring back someone who was removed from office for crimes, ethical offenses and accepting bribes.”

MK Arye Eldad (National Union) told Israel Radio that no person previously convicted of a crime should run for office, and Deri’s candidacy would be a corruption of the political system.

Jonah Mandel contributed to this report.


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