Shas chairman MK Arye Deri did not pledge that he would quit politics as part of his plea bargain from late January 2022, former attorney-general Avichai Mandelblit said in a video clip from an interview with Channel 12's Ilana Dayan that was published on Sunday.
"Yes, he suffered an inuy din [halachic term for the continuation of a person's trial for a long time without justifiable reason]," said Mandelblit on Sunday. "I think there was a problem with the investigation. [It] began with a crime, with very serious allegations, including bribery."
"They launched an investigation - a very complex, lengthy one which included legal investigations abroad that [I oversaw] as well," he continued. "After quite a few years, they actually came back with an answer, but overall I don't think we covered ourselves in glory in this probe."
Mandelblit concluded, saying, "the law enforcement system did not excel in this case."
The legal troubles of Arye Deri
The High Court last month ordered Netanyahu to fire Deri from his position as Health Minister and Interior Minister, as the appointment was deemed "extremely unreasonable" both because of Deri's criminal history including a conviction for tax offenses in January 2022, and because Deri misled the courts by promising that he would not rejoin politics in order to receive a lenient plea bargain in that conviction.
Mandelblit's comments seem like proof that the court made a mistake, since he indeed did not pledge to quit politics as part of the plea bargain. However, the judges wrote that despite it not being an official part of the actual agreement, the court's protocols showed that he indeed made such a commitment in court, and that this was significant in the judge's decision to approve the plea agreement. Mandelblit's comments are therefore not likely to change Deri's legal status.
However, the comments may sway public opinion regarding the "Deri Law", which polls have shown is widely unpopular. The law, which is an amendment to Basic Law: The Government, blocks the High Court from intervening in ministerial appointments. The coalition hopes that this will allow Deri to be reappointed and not have the High Court intervene. The Cabinet Committee on Legislation voted on Sunday to support the law and it will now head to the Knesset for its preliminary vote.
'These words will fall on death ears' - Shas MKs
Religious Minister Michael Malchieli responded to Mandelblit's statement on Sunday, saying: "Tonight, what we all [already] knew was further sharpened - there is a system of brutal persecution against Shas chairman Rabbi Deri. An insatiable system is operating out of revenge and pure evil. These words will surely fall on the deaf ears of the members of the Movement for the Quality of Government, who lead a campaign of incitement and defilement day after day in pursuit of justice."
MK Moshe Arbel (Shas) also responded to Mandelblit in an interview on Sunday.
"Today it became clear to all of us once again how much the [the High Court's attempt to stop Deri from taking office] is a complete miscarriage of justice. When Mandelblit says in his own voice, unequivocally and clearly, that there was a terrible and ongoing legal torture and that he [was not aware of] any commitment of Deri's that he would retire from political life permanently or for any period of time, any other decision is a distortion of the truth and of the voter's will."
Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.