Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was expected to sack Shas leader Aryeh Deri from his ministerial posts during Sunday’s cabinet meeting, four days after the Supreme Court ruled that Netanyahu’s decision to appoint Deri as interior and health minister was “extremely unreasonable” was from Deri’s recent criminal conviction.
Reports Saturday night on Channel 12, Ynet and other media said the matter was coordinated between Netanyahu and Deri.
The dismissal is expected to take effect Tuesday morning, ending Deri’s tenure after just 26 days in office.
At the same time, the coalition is working hard to find a solution that will allow Deri either to remain an integral member of the government or to return soon.
According to Channel 12, appointing Deri as an “observer” in the cabinet is being considered as an option.
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The Movement for Quality Government (MQG), one of the organizations that successfully challenged Deri’s appointment in the High Court, wrote directly to Netanyahu on Thursday, insisting that he fire the Shas party leader “immediately” in order to “cut the… respect the rule of law and separation of powers”.
Health and Home Affairs Minister Aryeh Deri outside his home in Jerusalem, January 18, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
The organization has asked the Attorney General to take all available steps to ensure Netanyahu removes Deri as soon as possible, and a spokesman for MQG said the group will “insist that this happen” but did not specify when further legal action could be taken.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announces his cost-of-living plans on January 11, 2023 at the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Although the Prime Minister has a “reasonable period” to comply with the court’s order to dismiss Deri, that period is unlikely to be much longer than two or three days from the date the court announced the decision.
Allowing Deri to attend Sunday morning’s cabinet meeting in his role as home and health minister would almost certainly be seen as a contempt of court, legal experts told The Times of Israel, although it would also take time to seek an actual contempt decision – and to receive .
The court’s ruling has posed a serious problem for Netanyahu, as Deri and his Shas party are a critical part of the coalition, and Deri has insisted that he remain in government in some form, which is likely either to circumvent the court’s decision through legislation or passing would mean being appointed Deputy Prime Minister, a position which may not be the subject of a court decision.
Appointment as deputy prime minister is difficult as the government would likely have to dissolve itself and then reform, requiring the passage of complex legislation.
Even if that were to happen, the High Court could still invalidate that appointment.
On Thursday, Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara sent Netanyahu a letter informing him that he had to dismiss Deri from his posts, although she did not specify a timeframe. According to a Channel 13 report, the reason for Netanyahu’s delay in the matter was his search for a replacement in the Interior and Health Ministries.
Netanyahu is likely to hand Deri’s roles to other cabinet members for now while he seeks a solution.
Netanyahu has in the past taken on ministerial posts in addition to his position as prime minister for various reasons, but is currently unable to do so as he is currently facing charges of corruption and is on trial – barring him from serving as minister. although the law does not prevent him from serving as Prime Minister.
The Supreme Court ruled that Shas leader Deri’s dual appointment as health and home affairs minister was “extremely unreasonable” given his recent and past financial crimes and that Deri had misled a magistrate’s court into believing he was retiring from political life receiving a lighter sentence in a plea bargain and avoiding a finding that his recent convictions for tax fraud contained “moral reproach,” a finding that would have automatically disqualified him from office for seven years.
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