Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed the Interior and Health Minister and leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, Arieh Deri, on Sunday, January 22, following a Supreme Court decision on Wednesday. Deri, convicted of tax evasion in 2021, demands to remain in high office as a condition for maintaining his support for Netanyahu’s new Executive.
The Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, dismissed Arieh Deri from his role as Minister of the Interior and Health this Sunday, January 22. His dismissal will take effect in 48 hours and members of his party will be able to replace him.
“It is with a heavy heart, with great sorrow, that I am forced to remove you from your post as minister,” said a letter signed by Netanyahu.
The prime minister promised that he will do everything possible so that Deri can continue to serve the State of Israel, a condition for the Shas party to continue supporting Netanyahu’s new government.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court, with a majority of 10 judges out of 11, invalidated the appointment of Deri, convicted of tax evasion in 2021, arguing that his appointment was “extremely unreasonable” and that his latest fraud conviction made him ineligible to be part of the government.
“The appointment of the deputy Arieh Deri as Minister of the Interior and Health cannot be validated (…) the Prime Minister must remove him,” declared the Supreme Court.
Netanyahu responded that the court’s ruling “ignored the will of the people.”
Deri’s career in the ministries began in 1988 in the Interior portfolio, since then he has accumulated several convictions for fraud. For example, he was convicted and jailed in 2000 for taking bribes.
After his last conviction for tax fraud, he had announced at the beginning of 2022 that he was retiring from politics, a condition imposed by the courts to avoid jail.
However, Deri stood in the November legislative elections and was later appointed to the government created by Netanyahu at the end of December, after winning the legislative elections.
At the end of last year, Parliament voted a text that authorized people convicted of a crime – but who had not paid a prison sentence – to obtain a ministerial portfolio. The law has been named ‘Deri law’ by the press, in direct reference to Arieh Deri, who was able, once the text was approved, to form part of the new Executive.
The Supreme Court judges criticized this regulation, but did not invalidate it, arguing that Deri’s appointment as minister was “in serious contradiction with the fundamental principles of the rule of law.”
Netanyahu also had a trial against him for three different cases of corruption while he recovered the throne he had occupied for 15 years at the end of 2022. In Israel, the prime minister does not have immunity from prosecution, but he does not have to resign or resign while his trial is underway.
Ultra-Orthodox support needed for Netanyahu
In December, Netanyahu announced that he had succeeded in forming a government thanks to an alliance with the two ultra-orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism (UJT), as well as with the three far-right formations, Bezalel Smotrich’s Religious Zionism, Itamar’s Jewish Force Ben Gvir and Noam by Avi Maoz. To reach these alliances, Netanyahu made agreements with these parties, distributing certain positions.
The Shas party is the second largest party in the ruling coalition and a necessary support for Netanyahu. Arieh Deri requires maintaining a high position as a condition for his support, due to the coalition treaty to find a solution that allows the ultra-Orthodox to remain a member of the Government, even as an “observer”.
“I intend to continue to contribute with all my strength to the public and to the coalition, to continue to lead the Shas movement, to continue to participate in the meeting of the heads of the factions of the coalition and to promote the important legal movements for which this Government was chosen,” Deri said.
The composition of this new government has generated much controversy, both within Israel and in the international community. It is the most right-wing Executive that Israel has ever known and the opposition denounces Netanyahu’s intentions to reform and weaken the powers of the Supreme Court and to concentrate them in his hands.
With EFE and AFP
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