Shas Leader Forbids Minister from Quitting Cabinet for Now

The spiritual mentor of the Shas party has forbidden Interior Minister Aryeh Deri from quitting the Cabinet at this time, despite the attorney general’s intention of pressing fraud and bribery charges against him.

Deri said last year he would resign his post if he was indicted on corruption charges in the three-year police investigation into a variety of alleged financial wrongdoings.

Attorney General Yosef Harish announced this week that he intended to present charges to a court shortly, and even showed Deri and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin a draft copy of a charge sheet drawn up against the Shas party leader.

The Deri affair is being watched closely here, since it threatens the stability of the governing coalition, led by the Labor Party, with Shas and the Meretz bloc as junior partners.

Reacting to the news earlier this week, Deri said he was considering whether or not to step down immediately and also spoke about waiving his parliamentary immunity in order to expedite the legal process and avoid a nasty debate in the Knesset.

But for the time being, Yosef has told Deri to hold onto his post. The Shas leadership met at Deri’s home Wednesday evening, with the venerable Jerusalem kabbalist Rabbi Yitzhak Kadouri also in attendance.

In a show of solidarity with the 34-year-old minister, Yosef told reporters he was confident that Deri would emerge from the affair triumphant and that his “enemies will fall before him.” Deri “is guarded by angels,” Yosef said.

RABIN SUPPORTING DERI

Deri and his attorney, Dan Avi-Yitzhak, have demanded — as the price for the interior minister’s resignation — that the state prosecution “lay everything on the table,” rather than hold back with further, unspecified charges that could be made at a later date.

Regarding this issue, the prime minister appears to be supporting Deri. Rabin said Deri deserved to be shown all the charges against him before he and his lawyers meet with the attorney general in a final bid to persuade him not to press charges.

Rabin said Deri is an “excellent minister” and deserves the same treatment as anyone else in his situation.

But the state prosecution has let it be known that further charges against Deri are indeed in the pipeline.

This has only added to the perception that Deri is being treated harshly, according to top Tel Aviv attorney Ram Caspi, who was interviewed Thursday.

“If they are working up more charges — why couldn’t they bring them all together?” Caspi asked.

Deri’s supporters contend that the investigation against him, which has kept 50 police detectives busy, was launched by the then-Likud government, which was angered that Shas had siphoned away votes from Likud and had attempted to put together a government with Labor.

They claim the case became “an obsession” with the state’s top legal officers and certain senior policemen — with the result that Deri is being victimized.

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