Aryeh Deri Drops Demand for Interior Ministry

Shas head convicted of bribery during his last interior ministry stint tell Army Radio he's giving up on the ministry 'to prevent slander.'

Yedidyah Ben Or,

Aryeh Deri
Aryeh Deri
Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90

Shas leader Aryeh Deri has dropped his demand for the Interior Ministry in coalition negotiations, he revealed in an interview with Army Radio Thursday morning.

Deri said he had made the decision "to prevent slander".

The Shas leader was convicted of corruption in 2000 and jailed for three years for taking $155,000 in bribes during his previous stint as interior minister. Despite having always proclaimed his innocence Deri appears to have realized his taking on the ministry again would trigger much controversy and more unwelcome attention on his conviction, which also resulted in a prolonged stint in the political wilderness before returning to Shas last year.

"For the sake of social reform I needed to return to the interior ministry," Deri explained. "But I am aware also of the public controversy and I won't enter the office on the left foot, so I won't fight for the interior (ministry)."

Emerging reports claim Deri expects to receive the Economy Ministry, although at this point coalition negotiations between Shas and Likud have reached an impasse.

Earlier this week, Deri announced that until he received a response from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu over Shas's demands for 0% VAT on basic goods his party would not continue with coalition talks.

The Sephardic haredi party is also locked in a struggle with the religious-Zionist Jewish Home party over control of the Religious Affairs Ministry.