Netanyahu must fire Arye Deri, A-G says following High Court ruling

The High Court ruled on Wednesday that Shas' Arye Deri cannot serve as a minister in the government because of his past crimes.

 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Health Minister and Interior Minister Arye Deri at a government conference at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on January 15, 2023.  (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Health Minister and Interior Minister Arye Deri at a government conference at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on January 15, 2023.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

In accordance with the High Court of Justice ruling on Wednesday that disqualified Shas chairman Arye Deri from serving as a minister, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must remove him from his positions in the government, Attorney-General Gali Baharav-Miara said Wednesday in a letter to Netanyahu that was published on Thursday.

“According to the ruling that was given today… MK Deri cannot continue serving as a minister in the Israeli government,” she wrote. “Consequently, and according to your authority… you must act according to the ruling and remove him from his role in the government.”

The default in such cases is usually that the prime minister automatically takes on the roles of ministers who resign or are removed. However, Netanyahu cannot serve as a minister due to his ongoing criminal proceedings, and therefore he must appoint someone else to Deri’s roles of interior minister and health minister, Baharav-Miara said.

A copy of the letter was sent to the state attorney, the government secretary and the deputy attorneys-general.

 Arye Deri seen outside his home in Jerusalem on January 18, 2023. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) Arye Deri seen outside his home in Jerusalem on January 18, 2023. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

24 hours later, Arye Deri is still a minister in the Israeli government

As these words are being written on Thursday evening, over 24 hours after the ruling, Netanyahu has not yet fired Deri.

While this was still considered a reasonable amount of time after the ruling, the longer Netanyahu drags his feet, the more he will be accused of ignoring the High Court’s ruling, which would lead to a constitutional crisis.

Netanyahu would likely wait until Sunday to give Deri time to decide whether he will resign, Maariv reported Thursday.

How will Deri's dismissal as minister affect the government?

It was not clear what would happen once Netanyahu fires Deri, who is his chief coalition ally. While Shas is not expected to leave the government, Deri’s removal could affect its stability in the near future.

Baharav-Miara’s letter came after the High Court, in a dramatic ruling on Wednesday, decided that Deri’s appointment as a minister was “extremely unreasonable” both due to his criminal past and because he had intentionally misled a court about a year ago when he promised he would not engage in public political activity in return for a lenient plea bargain that gave him a suspended prison sentence for tax offenses.

The ruling was a 10-1 decision. Some of the opinion in the majority refrained from ruling whether the appointment was reasonable, since misleading the courts was enough to disqualify him. The minority opinion by Justice Yosef Elron was that Netanyahu was required to turn to the Central Elections Committee chairman, High Court Justice Noam Solberg, to determine whether 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 may remain an MK.