Former Shas MK Nissim Ze'ev defended Shas chairman and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri Friday, claiming the minister is receiving undue media attention for a relatively common – and benign – crime.
"I just hope Aryeh makes it out of this in peace," Ze'ev began, in a special interview with Arutz Sheva. "I have been in politics for a little longer than Aryeh, and I don't remember an investigation as emotional, difficult, and painful as this; an entire family is under criminal investigation […] there are children, brides and grooms [involved], and the redundant calls surrounding the investigation cause more aggravation and even family trauma and anxiety."
Ze'ev believes that the authorities involved should show more sensitivity with the case.
"I think the investigation should end as quickly as possible while maintaining [the family's] privacy, because now it seems the gag order has turned into a publication order," he quipped. "All the drama around bringing the suspect in for the interrogation, and the family members being involved – there must be more sensitivity."
Ze'ev added that if the crime is white-collar (i.e. financial crime), then there is severe discrimination against Deri.
"The Tax Authority carries out investigations and arrests on a daily basis without drama – and so a public figure such as a minister is entitled, I think, to a fair and quieter investigation, to give him the opportunity to answer questions," he said. Ze'ev added that the investigation should only check whether Deri followed all the relevant tax laws – not the exact nature of his properties.
"If it's a tax issue, then every person should receive a fine and a warning – not a [criminal] investigation," Ze'ev opined.
Ze'ev – whom Deri personally ejected from Shas last year – said news of the investigation has sent shockwaves throughout the party. He qualified, however, that "it is still too early to tell" if former Shas chairman and Deri rival Eli Yishai would return as party chairman. Either way, he opined, current and former Shas members should "join forces" to support the minister.
Deri's corruption case has garnered media attention, after it was revealed several family members were allegedly involved in the crime – the exact nature of which has not been revealed to the press, but which reportedly involved illegal real estate holdings.
Media fascination with the case stems, at least in part, from the minister's history.
Aryeh Deri was infamously convicted of taking $155,000 in bribes in 2000, during his previous stint as Interior Minister.
He was sentenced to three years in prison, but was released for good behavior after 22 months.