Q&A: Why is it important to prevent Aryeh Deri from returning to serve as Minister of Interior?

Question: What exactly did Deri do? What are The offenses for which he was convicted?

Answer:

1. “Personal Case”

In 1999, the District Court of Jerusalem convicted Deri for bribery, three counts of fraud and breach of trust, resulting in the sentencing of four years in prison and payment of a 250,000 NIS fine.

In a judgment consisting of 917 pages, the court described the systematic behaviour of receiving bribes in all his public positions (Assistant of the Minister of Interior; CEO of the Ministry of Interior; and the Minister of the Interior).

In the year of 2000, the Supreme Court partially accepted Deri’s appeal to the sentence, and reduced his sentence to 3 years in prison.

2. “Public Case”

In 2003, Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court convicted Deri on the account of breach of trust, and sentenced him to three months probation and a fine of 10,000 NIS. He was convicted of transferring 400,000 NIS to an organization called “Kol Yehuda” headed by his brother, Rabbi Yehuda Deri.

Question: What is so severe about the offenses committed by Deri? Why is it important to prevent his return to serve as the minister of interior?

Answer: Deri was convicted of acts which are particularly severe, in several respects:

  • Deri was convicted of bribery offences, which is considered “the father of all corruptions” in Israel. These offenses are directly related to his adequacy to serve as a public servant and to serve again as a government minister (unlike, for example, violence crimes / sexual harassment / etc.).
  • Deri was convicted of accepting bribes personally – he received tens of thousands of dollars which were deposited in his personal bank account, as well as payments for personal trips abroad, in return for his support of Yeshivat ‘Lev Banim’.
  • Deri committed the crimes while serving in a public position, while taking advantage of his position and misusing of public funds.
  • Deri chose to remain silent throughout the interrogation process, while serving as a public official.
  • Deri did so in a systematic way, in every public office in which he served.
  • As written damning verdict of the District Court:

“The picture of bribery which discovered according to the evidence and described the verdict is severe. It’s not about a single failure of a young man who had just been exposed the “fruits” of government, but one who persisted in a lifestyle based on the foundations of bribery. Taking bribes extended over all five of the years in which the defendant played a public role. The defendant began to take bribes while he was Assistant Secretary of the ministry of Interior, continued when he was the director general of the Ministry of Interior, and then – while serving as the minister of interior himself… Five years of bribery marked the defendant as one who sought personal enrichment through his role and connections as a public official”.

deri

Question: There is no law preventing Deri from serving again as the minister of interior, so what does The Movement for Quality Government want from him?

Answer: Indeed, the Knesset’s Basic Law states that a person who was convicted and served a prison sentence of more than three months, can run again for Knesset only after seven years from his release from prison. The Government’s Basic Law stipulates that 7 years after a person who finished serving his jail term, is allowed to serve as a government minister.

Nevertheless –

According to our point of view, the public should demand from their elected officials norms of proper behaviour which go beyond the minimum standard set by the law. The claim not to appoint Deri as a minister is primarily a public campaign, which seeks to promote more appropriate behavioral norms for elected officials.

The law sets a minimum standard. This standard fits situations in which that person is convicted of offences that are not particularly serious, or offences unrelated to his position as an elected official. As described above, Deri was convicted of the offences which are particularly serious, and therefore the minimum bar set by law is insufficient.

Question: Deri completed his sentence and returned his debt to society. So why the “continuous punishment”?

Answer: The demand to prevent Deri from serving as the minister of interior is not intended to additionally “punish” him, but to protect the clean government and its elected representatives. Ministers should act as role models for honesty and governmental integrity.

Deri is a convicted felon of severe offences. By law, he cannot serve as a judge, for example, as an internal auditor of a public organization, a notary or a council member – but a government minister it’s ok?! Just as how you wouldn’t allow a sex offender to work after his release from prison as a school principal, it would be appropriate to prohibit anyone convicted of serious offences, such as bribery, to return to the same position in which he committed the offence.

Furthermore, Deri is yet to have expressed any remorse or apology for his actions – and therefore it’s hard to see him facing the seriousness of actions and atoning for them.

Question: Deri received a mandate from the public. More than two hundred thousand people consciously chose to vote for a party he headed, despite the crimes for which he was convicted. As long as the law does not forbid him from being re-elected to the Knesset, in what right can the movement cancel the mandate he received his constituents? Is that not it a violation of the right to be elected or to vote?

Answer: In principle, the Movement for Quality Government is working to change legislation, in a way that will prohibit someone who has been convicted for bribery to be elected to the Knesset. However, the movement respects the existing legislation and the right to vote. Thus, despite the severe acts of Deri, we have not we petitioned to invalidate his candidacy as a Knesset member.

At the same time, the mandate which Deri received from the voters should end in the Knesset, and not continue to the government. The Minister of Interior is not only elected official – it is first of all an entity with professional authority, charged with the responsibility for substantial public funds. The mandate that the electorate gave Deri perhaps enables his appointment as a Knesset member – but not his appointment as a government minister.

We must remember that there is no such thing as a “fundamental right to be elected as a government minister” – the decision on the appointment of a Minister is made solely by the Prime Minister. We expect from the Prime Minister to appoint ministers that will be a model for integrity and reliability and to prevent the government from enrolling a person who might mar it.

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