MK Eldad: Deri's return would corrupt political system

National Union MK says he supports bill that would prevent Deri from running; Amsalem: Deri belongs in Shas, not a new party.

Arye Deri 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Arye Deri 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Knesset members from different factions expressed opposition Thursday to former Shas leader Arye Deri's announcement that he will return to politics, leaving the possibility open of leading Shas in place of Eli Yishai or heading a new faction that is neither religious nor Sephardi.
MK Arye Eldad (National Union) attacked Deri's criminal record, telling Israel Radio that he opposed any previously convicted person from running for office.
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Deri served 22 months in prison for accepting $155,000 in bribes during his tenure as director-general of the Interior Ministry and then as Interior Minister.
Eldad said he supports a bill written by MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) that would prevent any civilian from running for office or holding a ministerial position who was convicted of an ethical crime or served at least one year of prison time.
The National Union MK claimed Deri's candidacy would be a corruption of the political system.
Shas MK Haim Amsalem did not warmly welcome Deri's announcement that he would consider running outside of Shas, explaining that Deri represents an older generation of the faction's history, and could easily fit in today, Army Radio reported Thursday.
Amsalem also intends to run for office outside of Shas, and polls have predicted that a party headed by the popular Deri would win seven Knesset seats competing against Shas.
Despite reports to the contrary, Deri did not announce that he would head a new party and he purposely left open the possibility that he could return to the chairmanship of Shas in place of current head Eli Yishai.
“Shas doesn't have to have the same face it has today,” Deri said tellingly.
Unlike in 1984 when he helped found Shas, Deri said Israel no longer needed a party to defend Sephardim against discrimination. Rather, it needs a party to unify the public.
“The main reason I want to come back is that I feel I can use my experience to contribute and give hope to the citizens of Israel that despite all the disagreements, we can still live together,” he said.
“In Israel, you cannot have influence without political power, so I want to head a party not just for the Sephardi population but one that can unify the general public.”
Not hiding his dovish views, he said it was wrong to miss out on a chance for peace with Syria in 1993 and that he never voted in favor of military action during his years as a minister.
Sources close to Deri said he was surprised by the media attention his speech received. His spokesman said Deri had said nothing new.
Several top political figures, including current and former ministers from numerous parties, have expressed interest in running with Deri in the next election.
Gil Hoffman and Michal Toiba contributed to this report.