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Israel's former minister resigns from Knesset over graft charges

Aryeh Deri, Israel’s former interior minister and leader of the ultra-orthodox Shas party, has submitted his resignation from the Knesset (parliament) after reaching a plea deal with the regime’s attorney general in a tax fraud case.

Knesset spokesman Uri Michael told AFP on Sunday that Deri had submitted a resignation letter to speaker Mickey Levy earlier in the day, adding that the resignation would take effect on Tuesday.

 

Last month, Deri reached a plea bargain with Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, under which he was required to resign from the Knesset, admit to minor tax offenses, and pay a 180,000-shekel ($57,000) fine in order to avoid prison time.

 

Deri is expected to remain the leader of the Shas party – Israel’s third-largest Knesset party with nine out of the 120 seats – and he is not barred from serving in the parliament again in the future.

 

Deri, who has a criminal background, served as former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s interior minister. He served 22 months in prison from 2000 to 2002 for taking bribes.

 

Meanwhile, Netanyahu is also negotiating a possible plea bargain with the regime's attorney general to end his high-profile corruption trial and avoid spending time behind the bars by having his jail term reduced to community service.

 

The 72-year-old was indicted in November 2019 in at least three cases of alleged bribery, fraud, and breach of trust. His trial began in May 2020, but he was excused from subsequent hearings as lawyers demanded more time for prosecution evidence review. The prosecution has assembled more than 300 witnesses to back its allegations. Netanyahu, now the opposition chief in parliament, has denied all accusations and mocked the size of the witness list.

 

Talks with Mandelblit have, meanwhile, snagged over Netanyahu's demand to be spared a conviction carrying a "moral turpitude" clause, which under the regime's law would force him to quit politics for years.