Ex-con Arye Dery Can Be Interior Minister, Attorney General Tells Netanyahu

While Shas leader's appointment is not extremely unreasonable from a legal perspective, it still raises 'legal difficulties,' says Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein.

Benjamin Netanyahu and Arye Dery in the Knesset in 2015.
Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein informed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday that he can appoint Arye 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. Still, Weinstein added, “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.”

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.

The High Court rejected a petition against Dery’s appointment at the time as economy minister based on his bribery conviction while a public servant. The three-judge panel included Fogelman, Hanan Melzer and Esther Hayut.

"Indeed, one can't exaggerate the gravity of Dery's deeds, at least those because of which he was convicted," wrote Hayut, who wrote in favor of rejecting the petition. "In his case, 13 years have passed since Dery finished serving his sentence, and simple math teaches that this period of time is almost twice as much as the time legislators set as the limiting someone from public service."