The government unanimously approved Sunday the appointment of Shas leader Arye Dery as Israel's new interior minister, a position recently vacated by Silvan Shalom amid claims of sexual harassment.
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In the early 1990s, Dery was suspended from his role as interior minister following allegations that took bribes while serving in public roles. He was then convicted and sentenced to three years in prison, and was released in July 2002 after serving two-thirds of his sentence. According to the Basic Law on the Government, the moral turpitude of his conviction was lifted seven years after he finished serving his sentence. His appointment as interior minister is now expected to be brought to the Knesset plenum for approval soon.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated Dery and said that he is faced with two main tasks – preventing illegal migrants from entering Israel and deporting those already in the country, as well as changing the borders of local councils in order to distribute municipal taxes in a more just manner.
Upon Dery's return to politics following the last elections, sharp criticism was drawn regarding Netanyahu's intention to reappoint Dery to the very same office he was suspended from. Dery himself wanted the nterior portfolio, but in April announced that he would give it up "to avoid slander."
Last week, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein informed Netanyahu that he can appoint Dery as interior minister legally, although he had other issues with restoring the Shas chairman to the ministry he held before he was convicted of taking bribes.
He said Dery’s appointment is not extremely unreasonable from a legal perspective, but added that “During the High Court hearing regarding Dery, it was ruled that his appointment ‘raises legal difficulties,’ and the court found it ‘on the border of reasonability.’ He quoted Supreme Court Justice Uzi Fogelman, who wrote of Dery’s return, “The question if the appointment is proper – even if there is no legal reason to intervene – will remain a debate in the public sphere.”
Already when Silvan Shalom resigned from the position some three weeks ago, Netanyahu hinted to his party members that he doesn’t intend to leave the portfolio to the Likud, but rather pass it on to Shas because of "coalition restraints."
At the moment, Dery is serving as the Negev and Galilee development minister. About two months ago he resigned from his role as economy minister, and by doing so allowed Netanyahu to take his place, bypass the authority of the anti-trust commissioner and lead to the approval of continuous deal on Israel natural gas reserves.