Deri Is Unworthy of Being Mayor

If elected mayor, he may well again use city funds not just as a cash pipeline, but as a gushing faucet.

Former Shas party chairman Aryeh Deri, who is considering running for mayor of Jerusalem, has been convicted of crimes of the utmost seriousness, including accepting bribes.

Deri has never admitted to his crimes or expressed remorse. He drew out his investigation and court proceedings over years, delaying the judicial process not only to the distaste of the judges but the Israeli public as a whole.

In 1999, Deri even ran an election campaign under the banners "J'accuse" and "He's entitled," giving the word "entitled" a bad name in the process.

It is not only for the crimes of which he was convicted that Deri has failed to express regret, but also for the damage he inflicted on Israeli society at large.

Judges at the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court convicted Deri in 2003 of breach of trust in an affair directly linked to the Jerusalem municipality.

They determined that Deri had shown a conflict of interest while serving as interior minister, budgeting NIS 400,000 from his ministry's purse to an organization run by his brother, Rabbi Yehuda Deri.

The money was used to purchase a villa in the capital's ultra-Orthodox Har Nof neighborhood for the purpose of establishing a yeshiva.

Deri was sentenced to three months in prison and fined NIS 10,000.

If elected mayor, he may well again use city funds not just as a cash pipeline, but as a gushing faucet.

During the proceedings, Deri formed a habit of filing unreasonable requests to the court: Postponing his entry to prison, for example, until after the High Holidays, and delaying the reading of the indictment due to a medical procedure Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef was undergoing.

His supporters presented the judges' cold reception to Deri's requests as evidence of the evil plots being cooked up by the court system.

Deri is now returning to his old ways, again defying the rule of law.

He knows that Israel's leading jurists are virtually unanimous in their view that the legal canon will not allow him to run for mayor.

He has not, as might be expected of a public figure, approached Central Elections Committee Chairman Eliezer Rivlin to cast a decisive ruling on the matter.

Instead, he has consistently behaved as if the only authorization that matters is that offered by Ovadia Yosef.

Deri is returning as Israeli politics' king of shady deals. He is also one of its greatest wasted talents - one of the most talented people ever to grace domestic politics, and one of its few natural leaders.

Sooner or later, Deri will return to politics. The question is, which Deri will it be?

It could be the Deri who expresses remorse and learned lessons from his actions, who internalizes that it was he who brought disaster upon himself and no one else, a new Deri who meticulously follows the letter of the law.

Or it may be the old Deri, broadcasting messages of ethnic persecution and war on the rule of law, again tearing holes in the social fabric.

It is difficult not to be pessimistic when we see how he has run his bid for Jerusalem mayor without even checking to see if he is eligible.

This is not the image of a changed man, but of the old Deri - the eternally persecuted and eternally entitled.