Deri Returns To Scene Of The Crime

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has signaled he plans to name as his next interior minister a convicted felon who went to prison for bribery and corruption the last time he held that job.

Aryeh Deri, head of the ultra-Orthodox Sephardi Shas Party, was forced to resign as interior minister in 1993 after being indicted for taking $155,000 in bribes.  He served 22 months of a three-year sentence and returned to politics in 2011, retaking control of Shas. The party has a reputation for corruption, selling its votes to the highest bidder in return for meeting its religious demands and extorting taxpayer funding for its deeply flawed parochial school system and other institutions. 

Deri was later convicted in a separate case of violating public trust for misappropriating public funds, including for the creation of a school named for his in-laws.  He got three months probation on that one and a $2,570 fine.

In a video that surfaced in 2014, Deri's former mentor and spiritual leader of Shas, the late Rabbi Ovadia Yosef called him a wicked man and a thief.

The Interior Ministry post opened last month when Silvan Shalom resigned in the face of sexual harassment charges, the second Knesset member to leave recently on such grounds.

Netanyahu's decision to give Deri the keys to the Interior Ministry again says less about the ethics of the convicted felon than it does about those of a prime minister who puts his political interests above the public interest and returns the thief to the scene of the crime.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.