(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The Movement for the Quality of Government in Israel on Sunday doubled down with a second petition to the High Court of Justice to disqualify Shas party leader Arye Deri and Kulanu No. 2 Yoav Galant from serving as ministers in the incoming government.
Last week, Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in two extensive legal opinions that there is no legal bar to Deri or Galant serving as ministers in the incoming government, while saying both appointments “raise difficulties.”
Deri was appointed economy minister and Galant construction minister. Due to each politician’s problematic past, the NGO had already petitioned the High Court to block both appointments before the appointments were finalized, with the court saying that the petitions were premature before the ministers were sworn in.
The new petition is based on the NGO’s hope that now that the ministers are appointed, the court will more seriously consider disqualifying Deri and Galant.
The petition leans heavily on the portions of Weinstein’s statements that described the difficulties with appointing the ministers and the severity of their problematic past.
For example, Weinstein suggested that in order to limit the appearance of impropriety, 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, since his past included violations of landuse laws.
The NGO emphasized Weinstein’s statement 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 once violated a law as a private individual.
Having founded Shas, Deri quit politics when he was 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 from returning to public office for at least seven years, which delayed Deri’s return.
Galant is a storied military hero and 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.
Despite all of the above, 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 have 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 is a question about whether Deri and Galant serving as ministers serves 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.
Weinstein added that appointment for either man to run any other ministry would need to be separately evaluated.
In light of Weinstein’s willingness to see the legal defense of the appointments as stronger than the difficulties, even the second petition is expected to be an uphill battle.