Netanyahu
Netanyahu

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired a senior minister who had been found guilty of tax fraud on Sunday in order to comply with a decision by the Supreme Court that disqualified the minister from serving. This decision shook the right-wing government just a few weeks after it came to power.

In recent weeks, tens of thousands of Israelis protested the plans to restrict the powers of the judiciary, which many viewed as a threat to Israel’s democratic system. According to Israeli media, 130,000 people demonstrated on Saturday night in Tel Aviv and other cities.

Mr. Netanyahu went on to say, “I intend to seek any legal way for you to continue to contribute to the state of Israel with your great experience and skills, in accordance with the will of the people.”

The order issued by the Supreme Court was described by Mr. Netanyahu as “a regrettable decision that ignores the will of the people.

However, Mr. Deri, the leader of Shas, an ultra-Orthodox Sephardic party, and a close political ally whose support is essential to the stability and survival of the coalition government, faces the dilemma of how to compensate Mr. Netanyahu, who is himself on trial for corruption.

According to Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, when the letter was read out to the cabinet, Mr. Deri said, “I have an iron commitment to the 400,000 people who voted for me and Shas.” He stated, “I intend to continue to contribute with all my might to the public and the coalition,” adding that “no judicial decision will prevent me from serving them and representing them.”

Mr. Deri, a seasoned politician, was one of the most knowledgeable and politically moderate ministers in the coalition that has developed into the most far-right and religiously conservative in Israel’s history. Shas’s 11 seats in the November elections are crucial to the government’s 120-member majority in Parliament; Together, the coalition parties hold 64 seats.

A far-right party known as Religious Zionism abstained from Sunday’s cabinet meeting in protest against the defense minister’s decision on Friday to demolish a wildcat outpost that settlers had built in the occupied West Bank. (Netanyahu)

This was another indication of the difficulties that Mr. Netanyahu’s new government is already facing. As part of his coalition agreement with Mr. Netanyahu, the leader of Religious Zionism, Bezalel Smotrich, demanded authority over such actions. However, the transfer of such authority from the defense minister and the military would require legislation and is not yet in effect.

Despite his conviction last year and the suspended prison sentence he received as part of a plea agreement, Mr. Deri continued to hold the positions of interior minister and health minister. In light of Mr. Deri’s most recent case, ten of Israel’s eleven highest court judges ruled against his appointment on the grounds of “extreme unreasonability.”

The panel also took into account Mr. Deri’s 1999 conviction for accepting bribes, fraud, and breach of trust while serving as a cabinet minister and lawmaker.

The judges also said that Mr. Deri, who was an opposition lawmaker at the time, had promised to quit politics and quit the Parliament as part of his plea deal last year.

The judges argued that Mr. Deri’s attorneys had attempted to mislead the Supreme Court regarding the terms of the plea agreement by asserting that there had been a miscommunication and that he had not intended to quit permanently.

Mr. Deri, 63, was born in Morocco and moved with his family to Israel as a child. In the 1980s, he was one of the Shas founders, and after running in the 1988 elections, he became the interior minister in the government of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir.

Despite earlier threats from other Shas politicians, there was no immediate indication that this latest termination of Mr. Deri’s term as a minister would bring down the government.

Mr. Deri can continue to be a legislator and lead his party. Analysts said that Mr. Deri would continue to make decisions regarding government matters involving the party’s other ministers and lawmakers, despite the fact that other Shas politicians with similar outlooks are likely to fill the ministerial positions he vacated.

Because it promises to empower working-class, traditional, and Orthodox Jews of Middle Eastern and North African origin, Shas receives a significant amount of support.

We will enter through the window because they shut the door behind us. He seemed to be referring to the judiciary when he said, “They close the window on us so we will break in through the ceiling.”

The new government intends to implement a number of changes that would reduce the judiciary’s power.

One of the ideas would give the government more control over selecting judges, and another would make it harder for the Supreme Court to overturn Parliamentary laws.

With a meager 61 out of 120 members, that measure would make it possible for the Parliament to overturn such court decisions. Additionally, the government intends to end the Supreme Court judges’ ability to use the ill-defined ethical standard of “unreasonability” to overturn government policies, appointments, or legislation.

Mr. Deri’s disqualification by the court has strengthened the resolve of supporters of the proposed judicial changes, who argue that they are necessary to correct an imbalance of power between politicians and the Supreme Court by reducing the influence of unelected judges in favor of the elected government.

The proposed changes, according to critics, would transform Israel into a democracy in name only, where the majority rules unhindered, severely reduce judicial oversight, and eliminate protections for minorities.

“The dark hour is now. David Grossman, a prominent Israeli author and liberal voice, told the crowd at the protest in Tel Aviv on Saturday night, “Now is the moment to stand up and cry out.”

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