Officials from the ultra-Orthodox Shas party are considering hiring party leader Arye Dery as a salaried employee to enable his continued access to the Knesset, following his resignation from parliament last week as part of a plea agreement on criminal charges.
Officials from the ultra-Orthodox party recently approached the Knesset’s legal adviser over whether Dery would have access to the Knesset chamber and the rest of the parliament building as an employee of the Shas Knesset faction.
According to the legal adviser, due to coronavirus health restrictions that limit access to two employees from each faction, Dery would be allowed access if he is hired as faction manager or deputy manager, so long as the staff remains limited to two people. Dery would in this case become a salaried employee with a contract, the party was told.
Shas has not yet decided whether to carry out the arrangement.
Dery remains leader of the party even though he is no longer a Knesset member. In the plea bargain, he admitted to failing to report the full proceeds of an apartment he sold to his brother Shlomo Dery, thereby evading taxes on 1.55 million shekels ($490,000) in income. Dery also failed to report income from the U.S. American financial firm Green Ocean, on which he should have paid 530,000 shekels in taxes.
As reported by Kan Channel 11 public television, last week Shas asked the Knesset to provide him with an office as party leader, citing as precedent Avi Gabbay, who was the leader of the Labor Party and received a Knesset office even though he was not a Knesset member.
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Shas sources said they were turned down on the grounds that there were no available offices. When Dery resigned, he was replaced as a Knesset member by Yosef Taieb, who offered to vacate his office for Dery and make do with a room adjacent to the Shas faction meeting room. So far, Dery has not used Taieb’s original office.
In a related development on Tuesday, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court approved the plea agreement that Dery’s lawyers and the prosecution worked out and imposed a 12-month suspended sentence and a fine of 180,000 shekels.
Dery’s decision to resign from the Knesset in advance made it unnecessary for the court to determine whether his actions constituted moral turpitude. Such a finding would disqualify Dery, who had previously spent time in jail in another criminal case, from serving as a Knesset member or cabinet minister for seven years. The two sides in the newer criminal case agreed that the issue would be considered in the future if Dery seeks such public office again.