Arye Dery is the ultra-Orthodox similitude of Benjamin Netanyahu, an actual double, and not because of the two men’s longtime fondness for haute couture suits and plundering the public coffer for private and family needs.
The political symbiosis between them is much more than a circumstantial coincidence or shared interests, but attests to a profound essence. Shas’ election slogan stated a few years ago that “Bibi needs a strong Arye.” Netanyahu told the High Court of Justice this week that “there’s no way to bring about government stability in Israel without appointing Dery a minister” and praised his genius. Of course, he thinks the same of himself. As far as those two are concerned, the state is them, or let it burn.
Dery preceded Netanyahu with an all-out-war declaration on the justice system. The “he is innocent” campaign and “Arye’s yeshiva” (an outpost set up outside the prison where Dery was held) sowed the seeds for Netanyahu’s claims of a “witch hunt” and “framing” campaign. No wonder their court academic Dr. Avishai Ben Haim serves both masters with his “legal violence” theory.
Dery is a serial offender. The only reason he isn’t serving his sentence in prison now is the mercy of heaven granted him by Avichai Mendelblit, who stalled and procrastinated and wrung a clear-cut bribery case against him. The merciful, agonizing Mendelblit downgraded the case to tax offenses, strived for a lenient plea deal instead of an arraignment, waived even the self-evident moral turpitude in exchange for the defendant’s commitment to step down from public life – which of course was broken at the first opportunity.
The shameless, honorless Dery isn’t only renouncing the clear commitment he made, for which the court was so easy on him. He also demanded and received two major ministries – interior and health. What contempt for the Israeli public this man has.
Dery’s two portfolios aren’t merely a symbol of megalomania, a clearly evident trait of his twin Netanyahu from the time he served as minister in four or five ministries simultaneously. This is also a reminder of another shared characteristic. Shas has a few diligent MKs, who have already proven their worth in public work. But Dery will never allow a leadership alternative to grow alongside him. He’d prefer to appoint two Shas ministers to Social Affairs, the smallest ministry. The post of acting prime minister, which he also demanded for himself, is an empty title, but carries a symbolic meaning vis-a-vis his alliance with Netanyahu and the equal status they attribute to themselves.
Dery has caused tremendous damage to Israeli society in the course of his political career. His life project is perpetuating the illiteracy and poverty of his voters, while patiently waiting for demography to do its work. In the last election, just like Netanyahu, he plucked the fruit from this endeavor, winning a phenomenal achievement of 11 Knesset seats.
When Netanyahu didn’t have enough partners on the right to return him to power, Dery helped him deceive Benny Gantz by vouching personally that Netanyahu would make good on carrying out the rotation for prime minister. This of course guaranteed that it would never take place. This time he made do with a coalition with the Ashkenazi Haredim and the messianic nationalist far rightists. Dery is no less dangerous or deplorable than Netanyahu, and if the 11 High Court justices convening on Wednesday make the decision that is called for and set a limit to the circus he’s making out of the rule of law – he and his partner will surely storm the castle to topple it once and for all.