Shas MK Moshe Arbel will replace party chairman MK Arye Deri as permanent health and interior minister unless legislation is passed to allow Deri to bypass a High Court ruling disqualifying him from serving in those positions, the Shas Council of Torah Sages announced on Monday.
Arbel was appointed as temporary health and interior minister on January 24, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu removed Deri from both positions on January 22 following the High Court ruling. A temporary ministerial appointment lasts three months, according to law. The coalition’s attempts to pass a law before Passover to bypass the ruling were unsuccessful. Arbel’s appointment as permanent minister will be ratified by the Knesset on Wednesday.
The announcement came in the form of a public letter penned by Council of Torah Sages member Rabbi Moshe Maya.
"As is known, a few months ago a scandalous decision was made by those courts, against the law of Torah, to cancel the vote of hundreds of thousands of voters, and prevent our exalted friend, envoy of God and of the rabbis, Shas chairman Rabbi Arye Deri from serving as a minister."Rabbi Moshe Maya
“As is known, a few months ago a scandalous decision was made by those courts, against the law of Torah, to cancel the vote of hundreds of thousands of voters and prevent our exalted friend, envoy of God and of the rabbis, Shas chairman Rabbi Arye Deri from serving as a minister,” the letter began.
“And as is known, all of the coalition heads announced their commitment to act in order to fix this terrible injustice, and change the law, so that Rabbi Deri can return to his worthy place, accordant with the will of the rabbis who nominated him and the will of the people, and in the meantime a replacement was appointed as necessary, but due to the short timetable the legislation was not yet completed. And since a replacement cannot serve for more than three months, we consulted on the matter, and based on the movement leader Rabbi Arye recommendation, it was decided that for the time being, MK Rabbi Moshe Arbel, who served as deputy health and interior minister, will be appointed as health minister and interior minister, until Rabbi Arye Deri can be reappointed a minister, and Rabbi Arbel will return to serve as his deputy.”
The letter concluded, “The Knesset members of Shas along with all of the members of the coalition will act in order to pass as soon as possible the necessary law in order to fix the injustice, and appoint Rabbi Arye Deri as a minister, as was agreed with him, to continue acting on behalf of the Torah... and in care of the public and the individual, with the grace of God upon him.”
Deri Law II: Bypassing the High Court
The law proposal to bypass the High Court ruling, known as the “Deri Law II,” is an amendment to Basic Law: The Government. Its purpose is to enable Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reinstate Deri after the High Court ruled last month that Deri’s appointments as health and interior minister suffered from “extreme unreasonableness.”
The court stated that this was both due to the Shas chairman’s recurring white-collar criminal convictions, the last of which came as part of a plea bargain in January 2022, and because Deri earned his lenient plea bargain by fooling the court that he would not reenter politics.
The bill’s supporters argue that the High Court’s ruling was an improper intervention into political decisions. They also argued that Deri did not fool the courts because he never pledged that he would quit politics for good.
The law’s detractors claim that the law is intended for personal political purposes and as such was a violation of the Knesset’s constitutional and legislative powers.
“Deri Law II” is also linked to the coalition’s proposed judicial overhaul. One of the overhaul’s provisions is that the High Court cannot strike down amendments to Basic Laws. The coalition initially intended to pass this first – and then the High Court would not have been able to hear appeals against the Deri Law, which, as mentioned, is an amendment to a Basic Law.
The law passed its preparation in a special Knesset committee formed to prepare it and one other law. It was placed on the Knesset floor on March 29 for its second and third readings. However, due to the public anger its passing is expected to raise, the coalition decided not to advance it further before the Knesset began its Passover recess on April 2.
“Deri Law I” was a bill that passed on December 26, and enabled Netanyahu to appoint Deri in the first place, without having to appeal to the Central Election Committee head, High Court Justice Noam Sohlberg, over whether Deri’s 2022 conviction included moral turpitude, which could have barred Deri from serving as minister for seven years.