A law we shouldn't need

A law we shouldnt need

In an ideal world, there would be no need to legislate restrictions on comeback opportunities for politicians who transgressed and fell from grace. Indeed, it should be patently obvious to voters that any politician caught with his hand in the public till and duly convicted in a court of law is prohibited from reelection thereafter. It should go without saying. There should be no need for caveats based on the sort of crime or duration of prison term. When a representative in whom the citizenry placed its trust, and whom it elected in full faith to handle its resources, breaks the code of principled behavior, that should be enough to delegitimize any further trust. But we don't live in an ideal world. What should be self-evident is obviously far from it. The Knesset is therefore now mulling a second bill dubbed the "Deri Law." Neither this current bill, nor the one which preceded it in 2000, was intended specifically for application against former Shas leader Aryeh Deri, yet both informally bear his name because he is perceived as their primary target. This has nothing to do with any anti-Deri bias on the part of lawmakers, but is rather the consequence of the unmitigated cheek of ex-con Deri, who has been intent on restarting his political career as though nothing untoward were recorded on his CV. Deri was convicted of bribe-taking and began serving a three-year sentence (reduced after appeal from the initial four) in 2000. He was released early in 2002. Rather than damaging his Shas party's fortunes, his legal travails only spurred it to unprecedented success - it won 17 seats in the 15th Knesset. The electorate's censure demonstrably cannot be taken for granted. In 2000 the Knesset passed legislation which forbade anyone convicted of a crime bearing the stigma of "moral turpitude" from seeking public office for seven years. Despite earlier pledges to shun politics, Deri sought to resume politicking in July 2009, exactly seven years after his release. The attorney general, however, stipulated that the countdown should begin from the date the full original sentence ended, regardless of time off for good behavior. But that only postponed the inevitable. Deri seems intent to reappear on the national arena, although he no longer commands the unstinting backing of Shas mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. Deri may have made Yosef into a political potentate, but there is no lasting sense of gratitude in politics. Deri's successor at Shas's helm, Eli Yishai, has effectively purged Deri's loyalists from the party list, thereby drastically narrowing Deri's potential playing field. There is little chance Deri could topple Yishai. His fallback route to regaining past prominence is via the divisive ethnic politics at which he always excelled. It's the last thing Israel needs. As Deri may have yet to realize, things didn't stay the same on the outside while he was doing time and then enduring the legally imposed political hiatus. Conditions changed, associates and collaborators have dispersed and found new partners, maybe even new pursuits. The world has moved on. He'd likely be stymied even without the current multi-party Knesset initiative which specifies that a one-year sentence suffices to prevent a disgraced politician from ever seeking another elected office. It's disingenuous of those Shas headliners who continue to pose as Deri's allies to claim that this bill is another prejudiced anti-Deri move. The legislation would apply to any corrupt politician with the chutzpa and gross moral obtuseness to seek to renew business as usual despite having betrayed the public's confidence. The fact that Deri currently persists in attempts to proceed with a political comeback attests to his own insolence and insensitivity rather than to the legislators' discrimination and intolerance. The new bill - promoted across the spectrum by MKs Tzipi Hotoveli and Yariv Levin (Likud), Marina Solodkin (Kadima) and Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) - is eminently worthy and will, once passed, apply to any dishonorable ex-politician who lacks the elementary self-awareness to recognize that his or her parliamentary career was ended by their prison term. If Deri chooses to belong to the above category it is his doing, and not the fault of parliamentarians striving to insure by law what some voters sadly fail to comprehend on their own.