Deri to Quit Jerusalem Mayoral Race if Court Rejects Appeal

Deri was forced to retire from public life in 2000 when he was found guilty of taking bribes while serving as interior minister.

Former Shas leader Aryeh Deri said Tuesday that if he is legally barred from submitting his candidacy in the Jerusalem mayoral race, he will drop out without seeking to overturn the ruling.

"I will tell the Torah sages not to appeal," Deri said. "I will do as I am told."

Deri, who was forced to retire from public life in 2000 when he was found guilty of taking bribes while serving as interior minister, submitted a petition to the Jerusalem District Court yesterday asking it to approve his candidacy.

In an interview with religious radio station Tel Hai Radio, Deri said he would advise Shas rabbis not to ask the Supreme Court to overturn a possible ruling preventing him from running for mayor.

Deri recently asked Yaakov Dahan, the official organizing the mayoral race, to include him in the list of candidates for the municipal election, the petition stated. However, Dahan replied on September 23 that he lacked the legal authority to approve Deri's candidacy because it was not clear whether his conviction prevents him from seeking public office. The Central Elections Committee also told Deri his candidacy could only be approved by a court.

By law, citizens sentenced to prison for more than three months are barred form taking part in municipal elections for seven years after their release - meaning that Deri, whose prison term ended in July 2002, would not be able to participate in a municipal election until July 2009.

But Deri argues that he should be allowed to run for mayor because at the time of his conviction, released convicts had to wait only six years before being allowed to take part in elections, and by that standard he is eligible to run.

"Last week I gave up," Deri told Tel Hai Radio yesterday, in an effort to explain why it took him two weeks to ask the court to approve his candidacy. "Election officials are forcing me into a situation in which I won't have any time [to campaign]. I don't want to be a candidate on parole. I don't want to take the public hostage or use public funds or ruin the chances of other candidates."

Deri rejected predictions that his candidacy would split the ultra-Orthodox vote between himself and Meir Porush, an Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox politician - making it easier for a candidate who is not ultra-Orthodox to win the election.

"I am the only candidate who can win the Jerusalem election," said Deri. "When they prove to me that there is a better candidate than me, then I will withdraw my candidacy immediately."

Deri said many secular voters support his candidacy because of his long experience in politics. "Anyone who is living in Jerusalem or has children or grandchildren in Jerusalem wants someone with my experience."

On the issue of talks with Palestinians, Deri said he opposed any territorial compromise in Jerusalem and said Fatah was essentially the same as Hamas.