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Israel. The Minister of the Interior cannot perform his function. The Supreme Court found so

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Israel’s Interior Minister, Arieh Deri, is barred from office after embezzlement convictions, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday. This decision may pose a risk to the “sustainable functioning” of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.

Arieh Deri, who is the influential head of the religious, ultra-Orthodox Shas party, is to take over the finance ministry after two years as health and interior minister.

In 2000, Deri was sentenced for taking a bribe to three years in prison, from where he was released after 22 months for good behavior. Last year, he was sentenced to a one-year suspended prison sentence for tax offences. He was repeatedly accused of embezzlement and corruption, but – as he recalled on Wednesday Supreme Court – opted for a court settlement in which he promised not to hold political office, thus dismissing some of the charges against him.

Arieh DeriPAP/PA/ABIR SULTAN

Judges on Wednesday judged Deri’s appointment as minister to be “utterly unreasonable” given the number of charges against him.

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Shortly after the announcement of the composition of Netanyahu’s government, Attorney General Gali Baharaw-Miara announced that she was against appointing Deri, who had been convicted of tax offenses and corruption, as a minister. The Attorney General sent a note to the Supreme Court in this regard.

The Times of Israel writes that government officials “veiledly threatened” that if the Supreme Court disqualifies Deri, it will only accelerate the reforms of the judiciary announced by the coalition, which, according to political scientists, are aimed at weakening the Supreme Court.

“If Arieh Deri is not in the government, there will be no government”

A high-ranking representative of the Shas party said that the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu realizes that the removal of Deri from the government poses a risk to the “sustainable functioning” of his government, reports the portal. According to the Associated Press, the court’s decision on the minister may in fact mark the first crisis in the ruling coalition.

Some members of the Shas are demanding that Netanyahu find some solution after the court verdict that will guarantee Deri a prestigious post, given that he is a representative of an important party. Otherwise, Shas may leave the coalition, which would mean that the ruling bloc would lose 11 deputies in the 120-seat Knesset. Netanyahu’s coalition currently has 64 seats. Yakov Margi, a cabinet minister from the Shas party, told the public Kan radio that “if Arieh Deri is not in the government, there will be no government,” the AP reported.

Arieh Deri and Benjamin NetanyahuPAP/EPA/RONEN ZVULUN

In the agreement published at the end of last year, the ruling coalition announced a reform of the judiciary, which, among other things, would allow a simple parliamentary majority of 61 deputies in the Knesset to overrule the judgments of the Supreme Court. The new justice minister, Yariv Levin, recently proposed that politicians play a greater role in appointing judges to this court.

As the AP agency comments, the introduction of such a provision undermines the mechanism of separation and mutual control of state authorities and leads to the erosion of democratic institutions.

Main photo source: PAP/EPA/RONEN ZVULUN



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