The Knesset plenum approved Monday evening the government`s request to appoint MK Aryeh Deri (Shas) as Minister of the Interior, in addition to his role as Minister of the Development of the Negev and Galil. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been serving as Minister of the Interior since former minister Silvan Shalom resigned from the government.

During the debate which preceded the vote, MK Yair Lapid, chairman of the Yesh Atid faction, said his objection to the appointment is ”not personal” and that he would have delivered the same speech had the debate been about Ehud Olmert, Abraham Hirchson or Moshe Katsav. ”I would have said that they too cannot return to their positions if they were convicted of a crime that carries moral turpitude,” he said. ”It may be legal, but it is legal only because the legislator never imagined the situation we are in now.”

Knesset approves Deri`s appointment as Interior Minister

Minister Aryeh Deri

Lapid further told the plenum ”Just to give you an indication: in this country, a person who has been convicted of a crime that carries moral turpitude cannot become tax agent, an engineer in a local council, a school principal, judge, kadi (Islamic religious court judge) or firefighter… He cannot be any of these things, but to be a minister – that`s okay. All of the House`s factions are hiding behind the judicial issue here. Is everything judicial? Are there no values? No public morality?”

MK Israel Eichler (United Torah Judaism) said ”the most moral thing we can do today is reverse the terrible injustice that was done not only to Deri personally, but also to the legal systems, which have become institutions for political thwarting.” He added that ”democracy allows the public to vote for people it believes are innocent from a moral standpoint. At the time, the judicial system and the media wanted to remove the young and surprising `avrech` – Aryeh Deri – so that he could not continue his revolution.”

MK Ahmad Tibi of the Joint List said the faction would abstain from the vote, adding that it looks forward to working with Deri ”in order to improve life in Arab society, despite the disagreements.”

MK Micky Rosenthal (Zionist Camp) said ”Imagine a situation where we would vote on Katsav`s return to the President`s Residence or on Olmert`s return to the Prime Minister`s Office. Is that conceivable? This is not a legal issue, but a moral one. I have forgiven Aryeh Deri the man, but I have a problem with public Aryeh Deri.”

Fifty-four MKs supported the government`s decision, and 43 opposed.