Netanyahu government suffers legal defeat as Israeli court suspends minister – Fox News

Netanyahu government suffers legal defeat as Israeli court suspends minister – Fox News

JERUSALEM, Israel – The Israeli Supreme Court on Wednesday barred a key coalition member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government from serving as a minister. In a 10-1 ruling, the court said the appointment of Aryeh Deri as minister in the new coalition government was “extremely unreasonable”.

Deri is the leader of the Shas Party, a religious party made up mostly of Sephardic Jews. Shas has the second most seats in Netanyahu’s coalition government at 11, and if they left the government, Israelis would likely have to go back to the polls.

Deri currently serves as Minister of Health and Home Affairs and will later split his term and become the all-powerful Finance Minister in the second half of Netanyahu’s government. He also serves as Deputy Prime Minister.

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Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Aryeh Deri

Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Aryeh Deri (Hillel Maeir / TPS / File)

In 2000, Deri served 22 months in prison for taking bribes. In January 2022, he resigned from the Israeli parliament after pleading various allegations of fraud. The deal has been criticized by many in the Israeli public, claiming it let Deri off too easily and paved the way for his quick comeback to politics, despite the alleged crimes and his promise to retire.

It is now up to Netanyahu to decide whether to comply with the court ruling and remove him from office or retain his appointment.

Two weeks ago, in response to the petitions against Deri, Netanyahu said that “without his appointment there is no way to bring about government stability”, calling Deri “an anchor of experience, wisdom and responsibility”. Netanyahu reportedly visited Deri on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the matter.

Deri’s party released a statement accusing the court of rejecting Shas’ 400,000 voters: “Today the court effectively ruled that elections are meaningless.

Netanyahu’s coalition parties issued a joint statement shortly after the verdict, calling it “shocking and painful”.

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Supreme Court of Israel in Jerusalem.

Supreme Court of Israel in Jerusalem. (Hillel Maier / TPS / File)

The statement said: “Apart from the grave personal injustice inflicted on Minister Deri himself, the verdict is a tremendous injustice to over two million citizens, the majority of the people who voted for a government led by Benjamin Netanyahu, in which Aryeh Deri will play a central and significant role.”

It went on to say: “We will act promptly, by any legal means available to us, to right the injustice and grave damage that has been inflicted on democratic decision-making and the people’s sovereignty.”

Israel’s Welfare Minister Yaakov Margi von Shas warned on Radio Kan earlier Wednesday that Netanyahu “understands that if the court disqualifies Deri, there will be no government.”

The ruling could jeopardize Netanyahu’s new coalition as it has shortened the timeline of Israel’s impending constitutional crisis and potentially plunged his coalition into chaos. Some of his coalition partners have already urged him to ignore the verdict.

Aryeh Deri

Aryeh Deri (Gideon Marcowicz / TPS / File)

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The Movement for Quality Government in Israel and the other petitioners in the appeals process welcomed the court’s decision and urged Netanyahu to respect the verdict and release Deri.

“This is a significant victory in upholding the rule of law and a win for the Israeli public at large,” they said in a statement.

The court decision comes as Israel’s Justice Minister Yariv Levin unveiled his plan to reform Israel’s judicial system, which would limit the court’s power to judicially review laws and allow the Knesset and the government to re-enact laws if the court struck them down the power of attorney would give control over judicial appointments.

Israeli protesters demonstrate in Tel Aviv on January 14, 2023 against the new government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  (Gili Yaari / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Israeli protesters demonstrate in Tel Aviv on January 14, 2023 against the new government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Gili Yaari / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Over the past two weeks, tens of thousands of Israelis have taken to the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to protest Netanyahu’s new government and plan to transform the judicial system. Another mass demonstration is planned for Saturday.

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TPS news agency reported that Israel’s opposition leader, Yair Lapid, had urged Netanyahu to comply with the court’s verdict and let Deri go. He said, “If Aryeh Deri is not fired, the Israeli government is breaking the law is an illegal government.”

This is not the first time the court has persuaded an Israeli prime minister to fire one of his coalition members. In 1993 it called on the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to sack the same Aryeh Deri after his first indictment.

Yonat Friling is an Executive Producer for Middle East Fox News. You can follow her on @FrilingYonat