Coalition ponders plans if High Court nixes Deri appointment

Discussions within the coalition are ongoing based on the assumption that Shas won't agree to Deri serving as just an MK throughout the Knesset's tenure.

 Health and Interior Minister Arye Deri at the handover ceremony for the Interior Ministry, January 1, 2023. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Health and Interior Minister Arye Deri at the handover ceremony for the Interior Ministry, January 1, 2023.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

The coalition is preparing for the possibility of the High Court ruling to prevent Shas chairman MK Arye Deri from serving as a minister, a senior Likud member confirmed on Tuesday.

Shas MK Moshe Arbel denied there were discussions being held. But according to the source, discussions are ongoing, based on the assumption that Shas would not agree to Deri serving only as an MK and not as a minister throughout the entire tenure of the Knesset.

The coalition’s plans depend on the High Court’s ruling. Should the High Court rule that Deri’s appointment was “extremely unreasonable” and therefore void, the coalition would attempt to fast-track an amendment to the Basic Law: The Judiciary that would bar judges from applying the “unreasonableness” factor in their rulings. Netanyahu could then appoint Deri again, in which case the appointment would likely survive a challenge to the High Court.

In this scenario, however, the High Court might have to rule whether the fast-tracked and personal nature of the constitutional amendment was valid – a question it has tried to avoid until now.

A second scenario would be if the High Court rules that Deri needs the approval of the Central Election Committee chairman, himself a High Court justice. The chairman will rule if Deri’s conviction, based on a plea bargain last January, included moral turpitude. If he rules that it did, Deri would not be able to serve as a minister for seven years, which is something that may not be changeable, the source said.

 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)

Will Deri agree to serve as an MK and not a minister?

It was not clear whether Deri would agree to serve as an MK and not as a minister, or how long he would agree to remain in such a position, devoid of the power he received in the government, the source said.

Deri is at least partly to blame for the situation, as he attracted too much attention by taking upon himself two ministries and taking on such a central role in the government, the source added.

Another, far more radical idea has been rumored. While Deri may not be able to serve as a minister, he might be allowed to serve as alternate prime minister.

However, this would require changing the government to a rotational agreement. That would force the coalition to apply a “constructive no-confidence vote” in the Knesset, which effectively means the government would step down in favor of a new government.

That option would require complicated legislation and would likely generate public backlash, so it is off the table for now, the source said.

Finally, irrespective of the scenarios above, it is likely the coalition would use any ruling against Deri as fodder to fuel its plans for judicial reform and argue that this was a textbook case of the High Court intervening where it should not have the authority, the source said.