Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein has told Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that it will be difficult for him to defend the appointment of Shas chairman MK Aryeh Deri as Economy Minister to the Supreme Court, but that there is no legal reason preventing his appointment.
"I reached the conclusion that the current legal situation can be interpreted as not posing a legal obstacle to appointing Deri as a minister in the government," Weinstein wrote in a legal opinion sent to Netanyahu and quoted by Haaretz.
"However, it is a decision that raises legal difficulties, considering Deri's criminal record and the damage to the public's faith in the regime's integrity and in its proper conduct, which could be caused by Deri's appointment as a minister, given his background," he added.
The attorney general referred to a supreme court petition questioning the appointment, saying that he "must emphasize to you that difficulties will also arise in defending it."
In his conclusions, Weinstein added that given Deri’s criminal background, "the possibility that his appointment to a specific would raise further difficulties cannot be ruled out."
The Attorney General also said that the legal opinion must not be construed as "public, moral or any other form of approval for Deri's intended appointment."
Under the agreement recently reached between the Likud and Shas, Deri will be appointed Economy Minister and Minister of Development in the Negev and the Galilee. Another Shas MK will be appointed Religious Affairs Minister.
Shas MKs will also serve as Deputy Finance Minister and as chairman of the Knesset Education Committee.
The Shas party said in response to Weinstein’s opinion that it "welcomes with satisfaction the Attorney General’s opinion which clearly states that there is no legal obstacle to appointing party chairman Aryeh Deri as economy minister."
Deri was forced to resign as a minister in 1993 because of an indictment filed against him. He was eventually convicted of taking a bribe, fraud and breach of trust, and served two years in prison.
In recent weeks there has been criticism over his impending appointment as a minister, particularly from Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid, who called on Netanyahu not to appoint Deri as a senior minister due to his previous jail term.