By REBECCA ANNA STOIL
If a group of four MKs have their way, the much-anticipated return of former Shas leader Aryeh Deri to the Knesset could be permanently postponed by a bill that would block politicians convicted of a crime during their political careers from returning to the parliament.
The bill, sponsored by MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) and co-sponsored by MKs Yariv Levin (Likud), Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) and Marina Solodkin (Kadima), would mandate that any MK or minister convicted of a criminal offense carried out during his service, and who was found to have acted with intent and sentenced to over one year in prison, would be forbidden from serving in the Knesset or the government for the rest of his life.
"In recent years, instances have increased in which public representatives who received a mandate from voters then committed offenses during their term in office and were convicted," wrote the bill's sponsors. "The goal of the bill is to maintain the honor and the status of the Knesset in the eyes of the Israeli public."
The current law permits convicted offenders to return to the Knesset after a cooling-off period of seven years following the end of their prison sentences.
Hotovely hotly denied Monday that the bill targets Deri, who has been released from prison after being jailed on corruption-related charges and whose followers are eagerly anticipating his political comeback. The bill's other sponsors also denied that support for the bill stemmed from any deals or requests by Deri's internal Shas adversary, Interior Minister Eli Yishai.
But another source close to the bill's sponsors did confirm that a large part of the bill's intent was to send a message specifically to Deri, and to any others who might follow. Fellow former Shas MK Shlomo Benizri and former finance minister Avraham Hirschson are currently both serving prison sentences for criminal activities carried out while holding public office. Another possible victim of the bill, pending the outcome of his trial, could be former prime minister Ehud Olmert.
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