Yoav Galant .
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein has told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in two extensive legal opinions that there is no legal bar to either Shas party leader Arye Deri or Kulanu No. 2 Yoav Galant serving as ministers in the incoming government, while saying both appointments “raise difficulties.”
Deri was appointed the new coalition’s next economy minister and Galant is the next construction minister.
Groups had petitioned the High Court of Justice to block both appointments due to each politicians problematic past.
Having founded Shas, Deri quit politics when he was previously convicted of bribery and served around two years in prison.
While he was released from prison in 2002, he was not reinstated as leader of the Shas party until 2012.
Among other things, the law prohibits anyone convicted of serious crimes like Deri’s of returning to public office for at least seven years, which delayed Deri’s return.
Galant had been a storied military hero, major-general and was close to being appointed IDF chief of staff in 2011 when Weinstein essentially vetoed his candidacy having found that he had used his high rank to seize public land for personal use and lied about the incident.
But in a long series of eminent legalspeak and negative declarations, Weinstein appeared to arm-wrestle himself into saying that one could interpret the law to say that “it would not be extremely unreasonable” to appoint the two politicians as ministers.
Regarding Deri, Weinstein said that even more than the required seven years has passed since his crimes and prison sentence.
Discussing Galant, the attorney-general said that none of the legal reasons, including Galant’s 2011 dishonesty in replying to questions vetting his eligibility as IDF chief of staff about the land use incident, for which he was never indicted, would legally bar him four years later from being a minister.
Weinstein said that the prime minister is legally granted wide latitude in choosing his ministers.
He added that, to the extent there was a question about whether their serving as ministers served the public interest, both men were elected by the public to the Knesset with full knowledge of their past, and both would need to obtain Knesset approval.
In order to limit some of the potential appearance of impropriety of the two as ministers, Weinstein suggested that each man give up certain authorities they would normally possess.
He said that Deri should give up authority over involvement in the appointment of labor court judges, so that someone with all of his prior troubles would not have any influence over the courts.
The attorney-general said that Galant should give up authority over the Israel Lands Authority in favor of the Finance Ministry, since his past included violations of land use laws.
Summarizing some of the legal troubles, Weinstein said that especially Deri’s crimes had been “severe” and intimately connected to his power as a public servant – which he said could be viewed as much worse than having one time violated a law as a private individual.
Weinstein added that appointment for either man to run any other ministry would need to be separately evaluated.
Shas responded that it was “satisfied with the attorney-general’s opinion that explicitly stated that there is no legal bar to appointing” Deri as economy minister.
It continued that Weinstein’s “respect for the will of the voter and the electoral results” should “be praised.”
Shas concluded that the criminal events involving Deri were around 30 years old.
Galant issued no response.