Coalition scrambles to give Deri new role, possibly alternative prime minister, after court ruling – The Times of Israel

Coalition scrambles to give Deri new role, possibly alternative prime minister, after court ruling – The Times of Israel

Some ministers in the government are calling for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to appoint Shas leader Aryeh Deri as deputy prime minister, Hebrew media reports said on Thursday, a day after the ultra-Orthodox party leader was disqualified from his post by the Supreme Court as cabinet minister over his repeat criminal convictions.

However, making Deri Deputy Prime Minister is a long way off and implementing it would be complex and risky, as it could result in Deri being disqualified even as a member of the Knesset.

The Deputy Prime Minister role was created in 2020 by Netanyahu and Benny Gantz for their short-lived power-sharing government and was also used by the subsequent government led by Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid, which was replaced last month. Netanyahu and his new hard-line government have vowed to scrap the legal option of an alternative prime minister, arguing that there should be only one national leader.

While Netanyahu may not be enthusiastic about the prospect of appointing Deri to a role he is seeking to eliminate entirely, he has few alternatives given the Shas chief’s refusal to become speaker of the Knesset, opting for a more senior role instead, according to the Channel requires 12 messages.

Appointing Deri to the position would require the government to table a motion of no confidence in itself and form a new power-sharing government. However, since the High Court has never ruled on whether a convicted felon can be appointed to the role, the matter will likely come before the judges.

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The court could make the appointment subject to a decision by the Central Elections Committee on whether Deri’s conviction for tax offenses last year – which earned him a suspended plea bargain – contained “moral reproach”. Such a designation would mean that he cannot hold public office for seven years.

In such a scenario, which is not unlikely, Deri would automatically cease to be a member of the Knesset and be demoted even further.

Coalition scrambles to give Deri new role possibly alternative prime

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives at the home of Shas leader Aryeh Deri in Jerusalem on January 18, 2023 after the Supreme Court barred the latter from serving as a minister (video screenshot)

“We will do everything we can to bring Deri back to the government table. But give Deri [the role of] Deputy Prime Minister will not happen. We will not go back to the days of two prime ministers. The State of Israel has only one prime minister and his name is Benjamin Netanyahu,” an unnamed MK from the prime minister’s Likud party was quoted as saying by news site Kipa.

If Deri does not resign from his two cabinet posts of interior minister and health minister, Netanyahu is legally obliged to fire him. In a brief letter to the prime minister on Thursday, Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara ordered him to comply with the court ruling, writing: “MK Deri cannot continue to serve as a minister in the government of Israel… You must act, comply with the law and remove.” [Deri] of his roles in government.”

But according to Netanyahu’s staff quoted by Maariv, Netanyahu will allow Deri to weigh his options and decide for himself which path to take. “Netanyahu is not pushing Deri to do anything. They have an understanding,” the unnamed sources said.

Deri himself has vowed to bypass the verdict, saying on Wednesday: “If they close the door – we’ll come in through the window, if they close that – we’ll tear down the ceiling.”

In the meantime, Deri has started to weigh possible successors for the functions of home secretary and health secretary.

He is reportedly considering appointing Health Ministry Director-General Moshe Bar Siman-Tov as health minister.

1674149589 34 Coalition scrambles to give Deri new role possibly alternative prime

Moshe Bar Siman-Tov, Director General of the Ministry of Health, during a press conference at the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem, March 11, 2020. (Flash90)

Makor Rishon’s website quoted Shas officials on Thursday as claiming that Deri’s position in the party had actually improved following the high court’s decision. “Deri is and will remain the undisputed leader of the party,” the unnamed officials said.

The Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that Deri’s dual appointments as health and home secretary was “extremely unreasonable” given his recent and past financial crimes and that Deri misled a magistrate’s court into believing he was retiring from political life to avoid a finding that his recent conviction for tax fraud contained “moral depravity”.

Deri was also convicted and imprisoned for taking bribes during a previous tenure as Home Secretary in the 1990s.

A poll this month found that less than a quarter of Israelis support Deri’s appointment as minister. The Channel 12 poll found 65 percent opposed, 22 percent supported and 13 percent unsure.

Among supporters of Netanyahu’s bloc, 43% said it was inappropriate for Deri to serve as a minister, while 42% said it was appropriate.

Michael Bachner and Tobias Siegal contributed to this report.

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