On Jan. 10, the Israeli Cabinet approved the appointment of Aryeh Deri as minister of interior. Deri, chairman of the ultra-Orthodox Shas, which represents Mizrahi — Jews of Middle Eastern and North African origin — will also continue in his role as minister in charge of developing the periphery. Deri’s appointment follows Silvan Shalom's resignation as head of the Interior Ministry after the publication of testimony by women who claimed that he had sexually harassed them. Deri, who had been minister of economy before resigning that post Nov. 1, returns to head the Interior Ministry 22 years after he left the same post, in September 1993, under indictment for corruption. Deri was ultimately convicted of graft, fraud and breach of trust, and served close to three years in prison.
Deri’s return to the “scene of the crime,” as some media outlets have described the situation, has become a moment for joyous celebration among the ultra-Orthodox community that backs Shas and views his appointment as righting a historic wrong. At the same time, to organizations and others advocating clean government, Deri’s return to the Ministry of Interior represents a severe decline in public standards and ethics. The Movement for Quality Government in Israel has petitioned the Supreme Court to nullify the appointment, which had been green-lighted by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein.