A rabbi who once led Israel's largest religious party has been freed from jail after serving only part of a three-year sentence for corruption. Speculation is rife in Israel that Aryeh Deri is determined to get back into politics.
Aryeh Deri is scheduled to walk out of prison next Monday, following a decision by Israel's parole board that he should be released on good behavior.
The ruling cut his three-year sentence on corruption charges by a third, and set the stage for Mr. Deri to return to public life.
He is credited with guiding the meteoric rise of the ultra-orthodox Shas Party, whose supporters are mainly of Sephardic origin - Jews from countries in the Middle East and North Africa.
In the recent years, Shas has gained 17 seats in the 120 member Knesset, making it the third largest political faction in the parliament.
The rise of Shas allowed Mr. Deri to play a pivotal role in determining the fate of governments and prime ministers. It also enabled him to influence decisions relating to peacemaking with the Palestinians.
But Mr. Deri's influence came to an end in 1999, when he was convicted of fraud, violating the public trust and taking a bribe while serving as a cabinet minister.
In its decision, the parole board ruled that Mr. Deri will be unable to return to political life until his full sentence ends in September 2003, which is shortly before the next parliamentary elections are due to be held.
Eli Yishai, who replaced Mr. Deri as head of Shas, says that his impending release is cause for celebration by all Shas supporters. Mr. Yishai also said that Mr. Deri could once again be in the running for party leader.