NGO petitions High Court against Deri becoming minister

Deri agreed to a plea bargain in January that included a clause in which the judges wrote that Deri would no longer engage in public affairs.

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

The Movement for Quality Government in Israel filed an appeal to the High Court on Sunday against Benjamin Netanyahu’s intent to appoint Shas chairman Arye Deri as a minister, despite his conviction of tax offenses and a suspended jail sentence.

Deri in January agreed to a plea bargain that saw him convicted and sentenced to suspended jail time. The plea agreement included a clause in which the judges wrote that Deri would no longer engage in public affairs. He immediately resigned from the Knesset before the court could rule whether his actions constituted moral turpitude, which would have barred him from serving as a minister for seven years.

The decision over moral turpitude by law will be decided by the Central Elections Committee (CEC) chairman, High Court Justice Yitzhak Amit. However, the incoming coalition wished to block the decision from reaching Amit by changing the law so that it only applied to actual, and not suspended, jail sentences. This will likely pass into law in the coming days.

What is the Movement for Quality Government in Israel arguing?

The Movement for Quality Government in Israel claimed Deri’s appointment would cause “serious damage to moral integrity and public trust in elected officials,” and would be “tainted by corruption and lack of good faith, unreasonableness and extreme disproportionality.”

The movement also claimed Deri misled the court when he proclaimed that he intended to retire from public life, and hence the verdict and sentence in his case were null and void since they were obtained by deception.

 MK Itamar Ben Gvir speaks with MK Aryeh Deri during a vote for the new Knesset speaker at the assembly hall of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, on December 13, 2022.  (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) MK Itamar Ben Gvir speaks with MK Aryeh Deri during a vote for the new Knesset speaker at the assembly hall of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, on December 13, 2022. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Instead, Deri should be forced to face the CEC chairman’s decision regarding moral turpitude and accept his decision, the movement claimed.

“Arye Deri is a convicted felon, who returned to the scene of the crime and again committed a crime and was convicted,” the movement’s CEO, lawyer Eliad Shraga said. “It was a mistake to let Deri return to the scene of the crime the first time, but to let him return the second time is complete madness and a loss of values and morals.

“If Deri is appointed minister for the third time, it will no longer be a question of if and when he commits a crime for the third time, but rather whether we will have a functioning law enforcement system to stop him.

"If Deri is appointed minister for the third time, it will no longer be a question of if and when he commits a crime for the third time, but rather whether we will have a functioning law enforcement system to stop him."

Dr. Eliad Shraga

“The High Court must intervene and prevent this disgrace, and cancel the plea agreement made with Arye Deri,” Shraga concluded.

Members of Deri’s party argued during the debates over the aforementioned law proposal that voters in the election were fully aware of Deri’s history and still voted for him with the intention of him becoming a minister.