Shas leader Arye Deri quits Knesset in criminal plea deal

To avoid prison time, Deri must resign from the Knesset, admit to minor tax offenses and pay a NIS 180,000 fine.

 Shas leader Arye Deri submits his resignation. (photo credit: Noam Moskovich, Knesset Speaker office)
Shas leader Arye Deri submits his resignation.
(photo credit: Noam Moskovich, Knesset Speaker office)

The veteran leader of the Shas Party, MK Arye Deri, submitted his resignation letter from the Knesset on Sunday to Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy, as part of a plea bargain agreement.

The deal, filed last month, required Deri to resign from the Knesset, admit to minor tax offenses, pay a NIS 180,000 fine and avoid prison time. But he is permitted to remain the leader of Shas.

Due to Deri’s public commitment to resign from the Knesset, Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit said he would not seek a finding of moral turpitude that could block Deri from running for the next Knesset.

Last Monday, the High Court of Justice rejected a petition to cancel the plea deal, telling the petitioners from the Movement for Quality Government it was premature to decide the issue of moral turpitude.

If he returns, it would not be the first comeback for Deri, who turns 63 next month and first became interior minister in 1988 and an MK in 1992.

Shas leader MK Arye Deri is seen at the Knesset, on July 26, 2021. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)Shas leader MK Arye Deri is seen at the Knesset, on July 26, 2021. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

In 1999, Deri was convicted of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, and given a three-year jail sentence.

Following his court-mandated cooling-off period, he returned to politics at the end of 2012 and was elected to the 19th Knesset.

Deri returned to his role as Shas leader in May 2013, following an intense fight with Eli Yishai, who replaced Deri when he went to prison.

It is unclear whether Deri could return to become a minister given his two convictions. The issue would likely go before the High Court, which intentionally said it was leaving the issue open as a mere theoretical potential issue, even as it approved the legality of the plea deal.

Deri will be replaced in the Knesset by the next candidate on the Shas list, former MK Rabbi Yosef Tayeb, the leader of the party’s French-speaking campaign.

Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.