Former Shas Party leader Aryeh Deri now says he is not running for mayor of Jerusalem, because he does not want to "return to public life from a position of strife."
Deri's bid to become Jerusalem's top official was rejected last week by the Jerusalem District Court, because of the fact that only six years have passed since he completed his prison sentence for bribery. The law says that in a case such as his, he must wait seven years before assuming public office.
Deri claimed in court that when he began his prison sentence, the waiting period was only six years.
After losing the court battle, Deri intimated that he might contest the District Court decision in a higher court, and/or turn to President Shimon Peres for a form of a pardon, in order to allow him to run for mayor. He has now announced that he will not do either.
Letter of Explanation
In a public declaration explaining his decision, Deri wrote, "I have consulted in the past few days with Torah giants, legal experts, and friends and family, and I have reached the conclusion that the District Court's decision closes the door on the possibility of my candidacy for Mayor of Jerusalem in the coming elections... I have no desire or intention to return to public life via shortcuts. Despite my knowledge and the deep conviction of many that my conviction in court was not just, I have made a decision to pay my debt to society up until the last minute."
"Though I am deeply disappointed by the court ruling," Deri writes, "I respect it, and also call on my supporters to respect it. I wanted to return to public life from a position of conciliation and mission, and not one of dispute and argument. I believed that I could act in this spirit in Jerusalem for the good of all its residents in all their various types and streams, religions and ethnic groups, and turn Jerusalem into a model of co-existence. In keeping with this, it is clear that I have no intention of turning my disappointment with the court ruling into a battle with the court."
Deri thanked his mentor Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, as well as leading sage Rabbi Shalom Yosef Elyashiv, for their confidence in him.
Some have said that Deri is now hoping that national elections will be delayed long enough - at least until mid-Jly 2009, seven years after his release from prison - so that he will be able to run for the Knesset again. He served as Minister of the Interior between 1988 and 1993, and as a Knesset Member from 1992 until 1999.
Porush vs. Barkat
Deri's withdrawal turns the mayoral contest, scheduled for Nov. 11, back into a two-man race, between hareidi-religious candidate Meir Porush and secular candidate Nir Barkat. Porush enjoys a natural lead, as the religious population continues to grow and generally shows up to vote in much higher percentages than the general public. In the last elections, five years ago, hareidi-religious candidate Uri Lupoliansky defeated Barkat by a handy 52-43% margin.
David Hadari, a Jerusalem City Councilman on behalf of the National Religious Party, says his party has not yet decided whom to support. "We will back the candidate who will be concerned for the unity of Jerusalem and for the religious-Zionist public," Hadari told Arutz-7's Hebrew newsmagazine on Tuesday.