Deputy Minister Defies Court Order to Quit ultra-Orthodox School Group

Education minister Meir Porush 'is liable to be interpreted as a conflict of interests and as such to damage public trust'

Knesset Channel

The State Comptroller’s Office recently ordered Deputy Education Minister Meir Porush to resign from the Independent Education System of Israel, an organization that operates hundreds of ultra-Orthodox educational institutions. The comptroller’s office determined that Porush’s continued membership in the association “is liable to be interpreted as a conflict of interests and as such to damage public trust.”

Last month the High Court of Justice refused Porush’s request for an injunction against the ruling and the ruling’s publication. Despite the conclusions of the State Comptroller’s Office and the High Court, Porush has not quit the association. In response, a spokesman for Porush said the deputy minister would do so “in the days to come.”

The demand for Porush to end his involvement with the association began around two and a half years ago, in part after the head of an organization that advocates for ethnic equality in Haredi schools claimed that Porush had a conflict of interest in ultra-Orthodox education in the mainly Haredi community of Elad. Noar Kehalakha, which is headed by Yoav Lalum, a lawyer, has taken on a number of cases of what it claims is discrimination against Mizrahi students in Haredi schools.

Yisrael Porush, Meir Porush’s son, is the mayor of Elad, where in recent years there have been alleged incidents of discrimination against Mizrahi girls. When Meir Porush was appointed deputy minister of education, he resigned all official positions in the Independent Education System of Israel, but asked to remain a member of the association.

In November, his lawyer applied to the exceptions committee of the State Comptroller’s Office. He argued that the association was in fact part of the Education Ministry, that membership in it was “part of a family tradition” and that Porush was not involved in its activities. He also claimed that if Porush resigned, he might be unable to rejoin the organization in the future.

In December the exceptions committee rejected Porush’s request to stay on as an organization member, saying that even without holding office, the deputy minister had an interest in the association, which is at odds with his duty to avoid conflicts of interest. It added that the appearance of a conflict of interest could compromise public trust.