Ministers Malkieli, Ben-Tzur to take on Deri's portfolios

Malkieli and Ben-Tzur will continue holding their first ministries as well, and thus each will hold two ministerial portfolios.

 Shas leader MK Aryeh Deri seen during a Shas party meeting, at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, on January 23, 2023.  (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Shas leader MK Aryeh Deri seen during a Shas party meeting, at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, on January 23, 2023.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Shas leader Aryeh Deri decided to appoint Religious Affairs Minister MK Michael Malkieli as acting Interior Minister, and Minister in the Welfare and Social Affairs Ministry MK Yoav Ben-Tzur as acting Health Minister, Hebrew media reported on Tuesday morning.

Both Malkieli and Ben-Tzur will continue holding their first ministries as well, and thus each will hold two ministerial portfolios.

Deri will try to return

According to an earlier report, the appointments at first will be for three months, during which the coalition will examine legislative acts that would enable Deri to return to the cabinet.

The decision to appoint Ben-Tzur appears to be a last-minute one, as an announcement on Monday stated that Minister in the Education Ministry MK Haim Biton was set to replace Deri as health minister.

The reason for the swap between Biton and Ben-Tzur was unclear.

Shas party members t arrives for a court hearing on petitions demanding the annulment of the appointment of Shas leader Arye Deri as a government minister due to his recent conviction on tax offenses at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, on January 05, 2023. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)Shas party members t arrives for a court hearing on petitions demanding the annulment of the appointment of Shas leader Arye Deri as a government minister due to his recent conviction on tax offenses at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, on January 05, 2023. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Deri's dismissal following the High Court ruling will take effect on Tuesday at 1:00 p.m. and his replacements will take up their duties.

Opposition leader MK Yair Lapid said in response, "The citizens of Israel deserve a full-time health minister and a full-time interior minister. The Israeli public does not need to pay the price for [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and Deri's shady deals and legal problems. This is a disgrace. It is a real blow and disregard of the government ministries and of the public." 

The High Court in a dramatic ruling last Wednesday decided that Deri's appointment as minister was "extremely unreasonable" both due to his criminal past and to the fact that he intentionally misled a court approximately a year ago when he promised that he would not rejoin politics, in order to receive a lenient plea bargain on tax offenses.

The ruling was a 10-1 decision. Some of the opinion in the majority refrained from ruling whether or not the appointment was reasonable, since the fact that he misled the courts was enough to disqualify him. The minority opinion by judge Yosef Elron was that Netanyahu was required to turn to the Central Election Committee chairman, High Court justice Noam Solberg, in order to determine whether or not Deri's actions in his 2022 conviction included moral turpitude. If so, Deri would be barred from serving as a minister for seven years.

Deri will still remain a member of Knesset. In addition, he announced that he would continue to lead the Shas party, and Netanyahu said on Monday that he would do everything he could to keep Deri within the circle of decision-makers.