The cabinet vote on whether to make Shas leader Arye Dery the new interior minister was deferred on Sunday, apparently for several days. If the appointment eventually goes through, Dery will be returning to the ministry he headed for five years until being forced to quit more than 20 years ago.
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Dery is currently the minister responsible for Negev and Galilee development. He previously served as interior minister from 1988 to 1993, until he was forced to resign after being indicted on corruption charges. He was eventually convicted of accepting bribes, fraud and breach of trust, and sentenced to three years in prison. He was barred from public office for seven years after completing his sentence in 2002, only returning to the Knesset after the 2013 election and then to the cabinet last March.
Dery resigned as economy minister last November after refusing to override antitrust considerations related to the government’s regulatory plan for offshore natural gas reserves. By stepping aside, Dery enabled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to assume the post of economy minister and sign a waiver exempting the natural gas industry from antitrust laws.
After Dery’s departure from the Economy Ministry, a special ministry of outlying areas was created and consolidated with the Negev and Galilee Development Ministry, through which Dery was allocated an additional 300 million shekels ($76.9 million) for remote areas.
Netanyahu apparently intends to retain the Economy Ministry portfolio at least until after his Likud party holds its primary election on February 23, so he doesn’t alienate any potential candidate for the key ministerial role prior to the vote.
After next month’s primary, the prime minister is expected to reshuffle his cabinet and may appoint two Likud Knesset members following the resignations of Silvan Shalom and Danny Danon from the government.
Sources within Likud mention the current tourism minister, Yariv Levin, as a potential economy minister. Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev is also eyeing the post, after forgoing the Social Affairs Ministry when the current government was formed last March. Coalition chairman Tzachi Hanegbi is expected to be named tourism minister if Levin leaves that role.
Deputy Regional Cooperation Minister Ayoub Kara is apparently also seeking a position in the cabinet. MK Miki Zohar and Knesset House Committee chairman MK David Bitan (both Likud) are being mentioned as possible coalition chairman candidates if Hanegbi vacates the position.
Once a ministerial appointment is approved by the cabinet, it must also get the nod of the full Knesset.