February 3, 2023

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A key ally of Netanyahu cannot be a cabinet minister, Israel's Supreme Court has ruled, sparking a potential government crisis

A key ally of Netanyahu cannot be a cabinet minister, Israel’s Supreme Court has ruled, sparking a potential government crisis


Jerusalem
CNN

Israel’s Supreme Court ruled 10-1 on Wednesday not to allow Aryeh Deri, leader of the Shas party and a key ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to serve as interior minister due to his February 2022 conviction of tax fraud.

The court ruled that Netanyahu should remove Deri from office. Such a move would plunge the country into a constitutional crisis.

Al-Dari’s Shas party – which won 11 seats in Israel’s 120-seat Knesset in November and is a key component of Netanyahu’s coalition – responded immediately, calling the court’s decision “arbitrary and unprecedented”.

The Sephardi religious party said that the court “today canceled the votes and votes of 400,000 voters from the Shas movement.”

“Today the court has in fact ruled that the elections are meaningless. The court’s decision is political and malicious,” the party said.

The Supreme Court has been asked to consider changing Israeli law allowing Deri to work for the government despite his tax fraud conviction. The judges decided that his appointment “could not continue”.

“This is, among other things, due to his backlog of criminal convictions,” and his failure to retire from public life as he said he would when he was tried in the tax fraud case.

Deri was a member of the Knesset at the time of his tax fraud conviction last year.

He resigned as deputy rather than give the Chief Election Commissioner an opportunity to rule whether the conviction disqualified him from serving as a minister.

Deri’s allies indicated this week that the leader of the Shas party would not resign from his ministerial position even if the court ruling was against him.

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His refusal to resign – or Netanyahu’s refusal to fire him – could lead to a constitutional crisis that pits the government against the Supreme Court.

Netanyahu’s ruling coalition relies on Shas’ 11 seats, so Deri’s removal would plunge the government into crisis.

This is a developing story, more to come…