January 2023

Israeli PM Netanyahu Fires Senior Cabinet Member on Court Order

George Slowey
Staff Writer

An embattled senior Israeli cabinet official was dismissed on January 22 because of a conviction from the Israeli Supreme Court, according to Al Jazeera. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed the now-former Minister of Health and Minister of the Interior Aryeh Deri from his position during a cabinet meeting shortly following a ruling issued by the Israeli Supreme Court, which stated that due to being convicted in 2022 of tax offenses he could not legally hold any governmental position. 

Haaretz reports that Deri has selected his own replacements. He will be succeeded by Michael Malchieli as acting Minister of the Interior and Yoav Ben-Tzur as acting Minister of Health.

Prior to his tax scandal, Deri had served Israel’s minister of internal affairs, minister of religious services, and minister of the economy at different points over the last 35 years. he also concurrently served as vice prime minister, minister of health, and minister of the interior under Netanyahu before being removed from all three positions at once, according to Reuters. Deri is a member of the Shas party, which purports to focus on representing the views and interests of Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews.

This is not the first time that Deri has been removed from politics due to finances. Notably, BBC News reports that Deri was convicted of taking $155,000 in bribes in 2000 and being sentenced to 36 months in prison, serving 22 of them before being released After his release, Deri said he did not plan to seek political office again, but successfully returned to public office in 2013. Since his initial conviction, Deri has been a member of the Israeli Knesset for nine years. 

The court ruling on Deri comes as tens of thousands have protested Prime Minister Netanyahu’s attempts to limit the power of the Israeli courts, according to the New York Times. BBC News explains that around 110,000 people recently turned to the streets in Tel Aviv as part of two weeks of ongoing protests against the current Israeli government. 

After Netanyahu was reelected in December 2022, he began pushing court reform, BBC News explains, which includes provisions that would allow the political bodies of government to strike down future laws as they see fit. Critics have decried these attempted reforms as a massive blow to the system of checks and balances set in place. 

Prime Minister Netanyahu is also embroiled in his own legal proceedings, in the midst of a trial for political corruption and bribery since 2019. There has been no final deliberation as of yet, but Netanyahu and his lawyers are currently negotiating a plea deal, as reported by The Times of Israel. To many critics, this is one of the reasons Netanyahu wishes to pass court reform, to legally clear his own name should a plea deal be unfavorable to him.

Image courtesy of U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv, Wikimedia Commons

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