(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The Movement for Quality Government in Israel called on the attorney-general Monday to issue a legal opinion regarding the likely appointment of Shas chairman Arye Deri as interior minister.
Deri was convicted in 1999 on charges of accepting bribes, fraud, and breach of trust while serving as interior minister between 1988 and 1993 and served two years of a three year prison sentence for the criminal offence.
Shas is currently in advanced negotiations with the Likud party to enter the next coalition government, with Deri seeking the interior portfolio, something which the Movement for Quality Government bitterly opposes.
The organization has condemned the current political debate for failing to highlight what it says would be a serious blow to the public’s trust in government, and also pointed out that Deri has never expressed regret for his crimes and conducted a fierce campaign against the state’s legal system when he was convicted.
The movement said that in light of these circumstances, the public deserved to hear from its top legal official, the attorney-general, as to his legal opinion on the matter.
“At a time when new incidents of corruption involving elected officials, including ministers, MKs and mayors, are frequently revealed; in which public trust in its elected officials has been trampled into the dust so as to be barely existent; at a time when the prime minister of Israel seeks to appoint as a minister in his government someone who was not only convicted of serious crimes while serving as a public official but who also led a wild smear campaign against government authority and law enforcement including the police, the State Attorney’s Office and the courts; we expect some utterance from the person who stands at the head of the public legal framework on this important issue,” said an attorney for the movement, Tomer Naor.
The watchdog organization also appealed directly to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling on him not to appoint Deri as a minister in the next government, and has launched a petition to this end, which 45,000 people have so far signed.
According to the group, the petition has been seen by more than 1,000,000 people through the social media campaign being conducted to increase public exposure to the issue.
The movement called on Netanyahu to hear the opinion of the attorney-general on the issue before taking what it called would be the “unprecedented step of appointing a convicted felon as a minister in his government who committed his crimes when he was serving as a minister and who is requesting to return to the same ministry where he pocketed bribes while trampling on the public interest and public trust in government authority.”
Should Deri be appointed as a minister in the government the organization says it will consider appealing to the High Court of Justice.
An adviser to Deri issued a response to the petition on Twitter, saying that “241,200 people voted for Shas and Arye Deri; who is the ‘Movement for Quality Whiteness’ or in its disguise name the ‘Movement for Quality Government’ to tell us what to do? Leave us alone.”