Deri willing to resign from Economy Ministry to move gas plan forward

“I have trouble believing you would agree to be a central player in such a devious act,” Knesset Economics Committee chairman Eitan Cabel said.

Arye Deri
Economy Minister Arye Deri expressed readiness to temporarily leave his post as economy minister, while maintaining the Negev and Galilee portfolio, in order to allow the government’s deal with gas companies to be approved.
Deri told Channel 2’s Meet the Press Saturday night he would try to find another way to get the gas plan approved, but if he can’t, he will leave the ministry.
Although the cabinet approved the government’s natural gas deal in July, Deri has blocked it from receiving final authorization.
The Shas leader refuses to invoke Article 52 of the 1988 Restrictive Trade Practices Law (the Antitrust Law), which allows an economy minister to circumvent the objections of an antitrust commissioner in matters of foreign relations or national security.
Deri has pointed out that the article had never been invoked before and that he did not want to set that precedent, asking that his authority to use it be transferred to the entire cabinet.
Former antitrust commissioner David Gilo’s resignation from the post went into effect September 1, but no new commissioner has been chosen who could authorize or reject the plan.
Meanwhile, because Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, Construction Minister Yoav Galant and Welfare Minister Haim Katz all claimed conflicts of interest – though Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon said the kinds of conflicts of interest that apply to the cabinet do not apply in the same way to the Knesset – the 61-seat coalition was unable to get the majority in the legislature necessary to approve the transfer of authority from Deri to the cabinet.
“I don’t understand gas matters,” Deri said Saturday night, but posited that, due to his input, the gas outline is better than it was when he entered the government.
“This outline is the lesser evil,” he stated. “I am not at peace with it, but I know that I cannot stop the gas outline.”
Deri added that, “The fact that they still haven’t managed to extract the gas is a failure at the level that there should be a commission of inquiry.”
Knesset Economics Committee chairman Eitan Cabel (Zionist Union) wrote a letter to the economy minister, in which he said he wishes Deri’s bitter rival, former minister Eli Yishai, was still leader of Shas because, even though Cabel and Yishai totally disagree on most things, at least Yishai is honest.
“I have trouble believing you would agree to be a central player in such a devious act,” Cabel wrote, referring to the resignation so the gas plan will pass. “I have trouble accepting this, because until now you stood like a fortified wall and refused to give in to the prime minister’s whims, which brought you support and backing from many groups in Israeli society.”
Cabel added that, if it turns out that Deri is resigning to allow the outline to move forward, “I will have to apologize to everyone who said to me... ‘Arye is still Arye’ but that your tactics changed. I stood up to your detractors and said over and over that Deri of today has changed, and now he’s Arye Mahlouf Deri, representative of the poor and doesn’t do what the prime minister and the tycoons say.
“God is my witness that I am praying to the creator of the world that this is not true... If they are, then you are not worthy, in my opinion, to hold a public position, because maybe you physically paid your debt to society, but in your soul, you have not changed,” the Zionist Union MK wrote.
Deri served three years in prison for taking more than $150,000 in bribes as interior minister before being reelected to the Knesset in 2013.
The Shas chairman shrugged off Cabel’s accusations when asked about them on the television program.
The cabinet is expected to vote Sunday on transferring Kahlon’s authorities in relation to gas to Tourism Minister Yariv Levin because Kahlon is friends with Kobi Maimon, a partial owner of the Tamar gas field.