Deri's criminal offenses make minister appointment unreasonable - A-G

Attorney-General Gali Baharav-Miara also referred to the legal process of allowing Deri's appointment as "changing the 'rules of the game.'"

 Newly appointed Attorney General Gali Baharav Miara seen during a welcome ceremony for her in Jerusalem on February 8, 2022. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Newly appointed Attorney General Gali Baharav Miara seen during a welcome ceremony for her in Jerusalem on February 8, 2022.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Shas chairman Arye Deri’s appointment to be a minister in the government can’t be accepted and deviates from reasonableness due to his extensive criminal past, Attorney-General Gali Baharav-Miara argued to the High Court of Justice on Wednesday. Her comments come ahead of the Thursday hearing for petitions against Deri’s assuming the mantle of being a minister and amendments to the Basic Law allowing him to do so.

Baharav-Miara described Deri’s tenure as a public servant and in public life as being characterized by a repeated pattern of criminal offenses. It was argued that the decision by the Knesset doesn’t seriously take Deri’s scandals into account and is therefore in contradiction with the legal principle of reasonableness – which allows for judicial review of administrative action if it is beyond the scope of what a reasonable authority would permit according to long-standing tradition.

While she advised against Deri’s appointment, Baharav-Miara said that the petitions against amendments to the Basic Law should be rejected. There were not sufficient grounds for judicial intervention by the court in the matter of Basic Laws, an extremely rare action that requires exact standards to be met.

MK Arye Deri's previous offenses

The attorney-general’s position echoed much of the argument by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s legal team, which contended on Tuesday that the High Court engages in judicial review when a law is in contradiction with the quasi-constitutional Basic Laws, but does not have the powers to review the Basic Laws themselves.

The amendment was in line with the basic constitutional principles of the State of Israel, with no reason to justify judicial intervention to strike down the law, the government said, heavily leaning on the importance of the separation of powers between the court and the Knesset in its submission.

 Interior and Health Arye Deri is seen in Jerusalem on January 1, 2023 (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) Interior and Health Arye Deri is seen in Jerusalem on January 1, 2023 (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

However, Baharav-Miara’s position clashed with Netanyahu’s filing on the matter as to whether the law was a general or personal one.

The Netanyahu team argued that the law itself was not personal because it would apply to future ministerial appointments. Further, it said, simply because legislation is triggered by a private case does not transform a general law into a personal law. The attorney-general argued, however, that there is an issue that the law was implemented in a fashion that changed the rules during the game in the course of the elections, which is likely to be a sticking point for petitioners on Thursday.

Deri's latest response 

In response to the attorney-general’s submission, Deri said that he welcomed the section in which she argued that he never pledged to retire from public service and didn’t violate the January 2022 plea-bargain in which he received a suspended prison sentence and fine for tax offenses. His Shas Party argued that Deri had made no such commitment. It also said there was no such understanding that the bargain would result in Deri’s future inadmissibility into the government, as critics have argued.

The fact that Deri is still in the process of paying for his offenses is another argument that petitioners are expected to use to emphasize the unreasonableness of his appointment.

“I trust in the Creator of the world, I believe and trust in the Supreme Court in Jerusalem that will convene tomorrow with an expanded panel of 11 judges, who will hear the voices of over two million Israeli citizens, including 400 thousand Shas voters who want to see me being a minister in the Israeli government,” Deri tweeted.

According to Basic Law: The Government, an Israeli citizen who has been given a prison sentence cannot serve as an MK or as a cabinet minister for seven years. In December, the “Deri Law” was passed, which amended the Basic Law to allow for those with suspended sentences to be exempt from the restriction.