Netanyahu dismisses his Minister of the Interior and Health, convicted of bribery and tax fraud

The Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahuremoved this Sunday the ultra-Orthodox rabbi Aryeh Deri from his posts Minister of the Interior and Healthafter a Supreme Court ruling that ordered his departure from the Government last week due to his multiple convictions for corruption.

“It is with a heavy heart, with great sadness, that I am forced to remove him from his post as minister,” says a letter signed by Netanyahu, released by his office after the weekly meeting of the council of ministers, in which he promises to find out the “legal formula” so that it can continue to serve the State of Israel.

The Supreme Court of Israel decided on Wednesday to annul the ministerial appointments of Derileader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, considering that they were “extremely unreasonable” and that his latest conviction for tax fraud in February last year disqualifies him from being part of the Government.

Thus, Deri, being the most experienced member of the Netanyahu government, leaves his posts after only 26 days of having held them. His removal will take effect in 48 hours and members of his Shas party are expected to be appointed in his place.

Along with his long career as a minister, which began in 1988 in the Interior portfolio, Deri accumulates a long history of corruption, which includes a conviction and imprisonment in 2000 for accepting bribes and a charge of tax fraud in February 2022. In this last process, he managed to avoid prison in exchange for accepting a plea agreement that disqualified him from holding public office and promised him to leave politics.

“This unfortunate decision ignores the will of the people,” Netanyahu estimated in his letter, stressing that Deri is “an anchor of experience, intelligence and responsibility.”

return at all costs

“I intend to continue to contribute with all my might 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 elected,” Deri warned.

Following the Supreme Court’s ruling, Deri lobbied to be appointed alternate prime minister in an attempt to circumvent his disqualification as a minister. But this appointment would bring complications, as it would likely require the government to be dissolved and submitted to a new vote of confidence in Parliament. Even if this were done, the Supreme Court could also invalidate that appointment.

According to the local press, Deri’s dismissal was agreed, while the coalition tries to find a solution that allows the ultra-Orthodox to remain a member of the Government, even as an “observer.” The ultra-Orthodox demands to maintain a high position as a condition to maintain its support for the new Executive, which needs the eleven deputies of Shas, the second force with the most seats within the coalition after the Likud of Netanyahu.

To allow Deri’s investiture as a minister despite his conviction, Parliament approved in December ad hoc a law that, modifying the Basic Law, now only disqualifies senior public officials who have gone to prison. That part of Deri’s sentence was suspended after the plea agreement was reached.

Controversial judicial reform

Another change of legislation, this time through the judicial reform that the Government is promoting to grant more power to the Legislature to the detriment of Justice, could bring Deri back to his ministries, since it would allow a simple parliamentary majority to annul an opinion of the Supreme Court that implies repealing a law or government decision.

In addition, the reform would eliminate the so-called “reasonableness” assumption by which the Supreme Court can prevent the appointment of senior political officials if it considers that they have violated the law, as has happened with Deri.

Netanyahu has held ministerial posts in addition to his prime ministership in the past, but he is unable to do so this time because he himself is indicted and being prosecuted on corruption charges, which prevents him from serving as a minister but not as a prime minister.

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