(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
An NGO on Tuesday implored the High Court of Justice to veto the appointment of Arye Deri as interior minister, with the emotional appeal that a “cry by generations” of the citizenry has arisen against it.
The Movement for the Quality of Government in Israel NGO opposes Deri’s appointment because he was previously forced to resign the same position in 1993 amid a corruption investigation.
In 2000, he was convicted of bribery, fraud and violation of trust, and he was sentenced to three years in prison. He was released in 2002 after serving 22 months.
He also waited more than the seven- year ban on returning to politics imposed on someone convicted of a crime bearing moral turpitude (kalon) and was not reinstated as Shas Party leader until 2012.
Despite the above history, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed him to return to the post last month.
“It is unreasonable to return Deri to the ministry where he committed crimes and instituted a sick system of using local authorities as pipelines for money,” the movement’s lawyers wrote in their petition against the appointment.
The lawyers have asked the High Court to cancel the appointment, because they believe it will discourage the public from having faith in their public officials.
It was unclear Tuesday how long it would take to issue a ruling.
On August 13, the High Court rejected a similar petition by the NGO to block Deri from being appointed as economy minister.
While the High Court said it viewed his appointment as borderline and problematic, it emphasized that around 30 years had passed since Deri committed the crimes in question and that the prime minister has wide discretion for cabinet appointments.
Next, the High Court rejected an appeal for a wider panel of justices than the current five to consider the issue.
On Tuesday, the sides traded turns citing opposing prior court precedents about whether or not time passing since a crime was committed was a key factor for leniency.
The state told the High Court that even as the NGO views past government decisions appointing Deri as economy minister and the court allowing it in August as a “cry by generations, we think it is still a binding” decision.
Although the court said in August that it might rule differently if Netanyahu tried to place Deri back in the Interior Ministry, which he has now done, most expect the court again to pass on vetoing the appointment while sounding a protest and leaving any non-legal and ethical blame for the appointment on the prime minister.
Sources close to the prime minister said further political appointments have been put on hold pending a ruling on Deri’s case.
Netanyahu is expected to appoint Tourism Minister Yariv Levin as economy minister, replacing Deri, who replaced resigned Likud minister Silvan Shalom. Coalition chairman Tzachi Hanegbi is expected to replace Levin.
But it is still possible that Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev will be promoted instead of Levin. Regev was seen whispering into Netanyahu’s ear in the Knesset plenum on Monday.
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.