The Real Danger: Dery as Minister

India has 14 indicted ministers, but none who were convicted. Here, in Israel, we are talking about a ministerial candidate convicted of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

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Arye Dery celebrating after the elections, March 18, 2015.
Arye Dery celebrating after the elections, March 18, 2015.Credit: Emil Salman

The Israeli electorate’s shift to the right is worrying enough in and of itself, although, except for Likud, all the right wing parties lost altitude. Some Likud representatives are extremist enough to constitute a danger to democracy, and if we are to judge by their remarks in recent years, we should expect even more extreme remarks from them regarding Arabs and the Supreme Court. We can also anticipate more extreme deeds, in other words unacceptable legislation.

I fear that many voters for the right-wing parties are not even aware of that possibility. Most voted for slogans and were influenced by the general atmosphere. . Those who boast in those parties – especially Likud – of continuing the policies of Menachem Begin and even Zeev Jabotinsky are simply misleading their listeners. The gaps between the law of the land as Begin applied it and the noises emanating from the throats of all sorts of Likud members today are getting larger. My guess is that Begin would be shocked if he could hear them. They are more reminiscent of Meir Kahane’s doctrine than the way Begin approached the courts, for instance.

However, the most worrisome matter in the future coalition is the clear and present danger that Arye Dery will be a cabinet minister. India has 14 government ministers who have been indicted, but none who were convicted to date. Here, in Israel, we are talking about a ministerial candidate who was convicted of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

The proportionality of his punishment is not important, the fact that the Supreme Court slightly eased his sentence imposed by the district court is not important, the fact that he served his time is not important. This is not a legal question but a wholly a moral one. May someone convicted of that sort of criminal offense become a minister? A member in the cabinet? A partner in budgetary, diplomatic and legal decisions? The idea is shocking, but in the current Israeli reality, it is hard to imagine Benjamin Netanyahu rejecting Dery’s demands to be a minister as a condition for Shas’ joining the coalition.

This is an opportunity for the 20th Knesset, or some of its members, maybe from outside the coalition, to propose legislation that would correct the laws regarding the Knesset, cabinet and local governments, and explicitly state that those with criminal convictions cannot be candidates in Knesset or local government elections, and cannot be included in the cabinet.

Gabriel Strassman is a retired judge.

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