JERUSALEM, Israel — The Israeli Supreme Court on Wednesday disqualified an important member of the coalition in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government from serving as a minister. In its 10-1 ruling, the court said that the appointment of Aryeh Deri as minister in the new coalition government was “extremely unreasonable”.
Deri is the leader of Shas, a religious party made up mostly of Sephardic Jews. Shas ranks second in Netanyahu’s coalition government with 11 seats, and if they leave the government, Israelis will likely return to the polls.
Deri currently serves as health and interior affairs minister, and will later split his term and become the powerful finance minister in the second half of Netanyahu’s government. He also holds the position of Deputy Prime Minister.
Benjamin Netanyahu returns to power in Israel with the reprimand of the new government
In 2000, Deri served 22 months in prison for taking bribes. In January 2022, he resigned from the Israeli parliament after a plea bargain on various fraud charges. Much of the Israeli public criticized the deal, claiming that it allowed Dre an easy exit, and paved the way for his quick return to politics despite the alleged crimes and his vow to retire from politics.
It is now up to Netanyahu to decide whether to respect the court’s ruling and remove him from office or keep his appointment.
Netanyahu said two weeks ago, in his response to petitions filed against Deri’s service, that “there is no way to achieve government stability without appointing him,” describing Deri as “an anchor of experience, wisdom and responsibility.” Netanyahu reportedly visited al-Dari on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the matter.
Deri’s party issued a statement accusing the court of rejecting the 400,000 Shas voters: “Today the court effectively ruled that the elections are meaningless. The court’s decision is political and tinged with excessive unreasonableness.”
Netanyahu’s coalition parties issued a joint statement shortly after the verdict, calling it “appalling and painful”.
Administrator Biden’s commitment to a two-state solution following Netanyahu’s appointment
The statement indicated that “besides the grave personal injustice that befell Minister Deri himself, the ruling is a great injustice to more than two million citizens, the majority of the people, who voted in favor of a government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, in which Aryeh Deri declares that she plays a central and important role.”
And she continued, “We will work in any legal way available to us, without delay, to correct the injustice and the grave damage caused to the democratic decision and the sovereignty of the people.”
Israel’s Welfare Minister Yaakov Margi of Shas earlier warned Radio Kan on Wednesday that if the court disqualifies Deri that Netanyahu “knows that there will be no government. We said there is no reason why Aryeh Deri should not serve as a senior minister in Israel.”
The ruling could endanger Netanyahu’s new coalition as it has reduced the timeline for Israel’s impending constitutional crisis and may have thrown his coalition into disarray. Some of his coalition partners have already approached him to ignore the ruling.
UN envoy thanks Hezbollah terror group, and replies from Israeli officials: “Is this real?”
The Movement for Quality Government in Israel and the other petitioners welcomed the court’s decision and called on Netanyahu to respect the ruling and reject Deri.
“This is an important victory in preserving the rule of law and a success for the entire Israeli public,” they said in a statement.
The court’s decision comes as Israeli Justice Minister Yariv Levin presented his plan to reform Israel’s judicial system that would limit the court’s power to judicial review legislation, allow the Knesset to re-enact laws if the court overturns them, and give the government total control over judicial appointments.
In 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 reform the justice system. Another massive demonstration is scheduled for Saturday.
Click here for the FOX NEWS app
It was reported by the TPS news agency that the leader of the Israeli opposition, Yair Lapid, demanded that Netanyahu follow the court’s ruling and let Deri go, saying, “If Aryeh Deri is not fired, the Israeli government is breaking the law. A government that does not abide by the law. An illegitimate government.”
This is not the first time that the court has called on an Israeli prime minister to dismiss a member of his coalition. In 1993, she called on the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to dismiss Aryeh Deri after his first indictment.
Jonat Freling is a Senior Producer at Fox News Middle East. You can follow her on @FrilingYonat