Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu dismissed Interior and Health Minister and number two in the government, Arié Déri, from office on Sunday, January 22, following a court ruling. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court invalidated the appointment of Mr Déri, who was convicted of tax evasion in 2021.
“It is with a heavy heart and with great pain (…) that we are forced to relieve you of your post in the government,” Mr Netanyahu said at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, in the presence of Mr Déri. The Prime Minister added that the Supreme Court’s ruling “ignores the will of the people” and that he will endeavor to find all legal means to allow Mr Déri to “contribute to the service of the State of Israel”.
As leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shass party, Déri served as interior and health ministers under a complex coalition deal struck in December 2022 following Israel’s November 1 general election.
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A “circus”, denounces the leader of the opposition
The Supreme Court, the country’s highest judicial body, said in a press release on Wednesday, January 18, that it had ruled by a majority of ten out of eleven judges “that the appointment of deputy Arie Déri as Minister of the Interior and Health cannot be validated”. “The prime minister must sack him,” she added, recalling that Mr Déri had announced in early 2022 that he would retire from political life following his conviction for tax evasion. This deprivation was even a condition of the courts to avoid imprisonment.
However, Mr Déri had presented himself (he was elected) in the general elections in November and had then been appointed to the government installed by Mr Netanyahu with his ultra-Orthodox and far-right allies at the end of December.
In a first reaction, former Prime Minister and opposition leader Yaïr Lapid described the government as a “circus”. on twitter. “The citizens of Israel should not pay the price for this government’s corruption and disorder,” he added.
מה שאנחנו רואים זו לא ממשלה, זה קרקס. נתניהו חלש אבל הוא צריך למנות עוד היום שר בריאות ושר פנים במשרה מלאה. אזרחי י… https://t.co/IjnghCRiSu
Mr Netanyahu himself is on trial on several corruption charges and his trial is ongoing. In Israel, the prime minister does not enjoy judicial immunity, but is not required to resign or resign during his trial.
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Charged with corruption in 1993
At the end of December 2022, MEPs hastily voted on what the press dubbed the “Déri Law”, authorizing a person convicted of a crime but not sentenced to imprisonment to receive a ministerial portfolio. The purpose of this text is to allow Mr. Déri to sit on the new executive.
In their reasoning, the Supreme Court judges criticized the “Déri Law” without invalidating it, and considered that the appointment of Mr Déri to the government was “seriously contrary to the fundamental principles of the rule of law”.
The ultra-Orthodox Sephardic Shas party is the second party in the governing coalition. Mr Déri is a protective figure of Shass, a party accustomed to making and breaking coalitions since the 1980s, and has been a minister in many governments.
As early as 1993, the Supreme Court had called for his dismissal as Home Secretary after he was accused of corruption. In 2000, he was sentenced to three years in prison and was released after serving two-thirds of his sentence.
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