A-G approves deal for Deri to leave Knesset, confess, pay NIS 180K fine

Mandelblit said that due to Deri's public commitment to resign from the Knesset, he would not seek a finding of moral turpitude which could block Deri from running for the next Knesset. 

SHAS LEADER MK Arye Deri, August 2, 2021 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
SHAS LEADER MK Arye Deri, August 2, 2021
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit announced a plea bargain with MK Arye Deri, in which the Shas Party leader will resign from the Knesset, admit to minor tax offenses, and pay a NIS 180,000 fine, but avoid prison time.

Mandelblit said on Thursday that due to Deri’s public commitment to resign from the Knesset, he would not seek a finding of moral turpitude, which could block Deri from running for the next Knesset.

Deri will be able to remain chairman of the Shas Party and initially, at least, be able to run for the next Knesset.

Head of Shas and Interior Minister, Arye Deri voted at a polling station close to his house on Kablan Street in Jerusalem. (credit: YAAKOV COHEN)Head of Shas and Interior Minister, Arye Deri voted at a polling station close to his house on Kablan Street in Jerusalem. (credit: YAAKOV COHEN)

After he quits the Knesset, he will be replaced by French-born former MK Rabbi Yosef Taieb.

His quitting the Knesset is expected before a court hears and endorses the plea deal, with the hearing still to be scheduled.

This could happen in the coming days or take longer, but will occur before Mandelblit steps down on February 1.

Whether Deri will be able to be a minister in any future government will likely be decided only if he is nominated and after an expected petition is filed to the High Court of Justice.

The plea deal does not include a finding of moral turpitude – which automatically disqualifies politicians for seven years. However, Deri will have the unique distinction of having been previously convicted for bribery, sent to jail, banned from politics for almost 10 years, returning, and then being convicted again.

Anti-corruption NGOs have already threatened to file petitions to the High Court against the deal as being too lenient, saying any deal should bar Deri from politics and send him to jail.

Multiple leaks this week about the deal came after a prior leak on November 25 – seemingly by Deri’s messengers – that said he would not agree to any plea deal with any serious political consequences that would force Mandelblit to file an indictment the next day.

Deri released a statement on Thursday expressing gratitude to God for helping him and his family endure the seven-year investigation. He said he would take responsibility for his mistakes on his taxes.

“The probe started with great fanfare and very harsh suspicions and it ended with Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit saying the case did not even end up being a molehill,” Deri said. “I will continue to focus on my public service and to lead Shas with full force and faith.”

Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.