Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu removed Shas chairman Arye Deri from his position as interior and health minister on Sunday, in accordance with the High Court of Justice’s ruling last Wednesday that Deri was unfit to serve as a minister due to his criminal past.
Netanyahu removes Deri from gov't 'with heavy heart'
“As is known, I decided to appoint you as deputy prime minister and interior and health minister with the approval of the majority of Knesset members due to the fact that I see you as an anchor of experience, intelligence and responsibility that are important to the State of Israel at all times, and especially at this time,” he wrote in a letter to Deri, which he read out loud at the weekly cabinet meeting.
“I also thought that it was important that you serve the State of Israel as a member of the national security cabinet in my government and contribute due to your many years of experience as a cabinet member in the governments of the late prime ministers Yitzhak Shamir and Yitzhak Rabin – rich experience that contributes to the security and resilience of the State of Israel.
“Unfortunately, despite the above, on January 18, 2023, the High Court of Justice decided that I have an obligation to remove you from your position as interior and health minister. This unfortunate decision ignores the will of the people, as reflected in the great trust that the public gave to the people’s representatives and their elected officials in my government, when it was clear to everyone that you would serve in the government as a senior minister.
“I intend to look for any legal way in which you can continue to contribute to the State of Israel from your vast experiences and skills, in accordance with the will of the people.
“However, following the provisions of the said judgment, I must inform you that according to Section 22 (b) of the Basic Law: The Government, I am forced with a heavy heart, with great sorrow and with extremely difficult feelings, to remove you from your position as a minister in the government,” Netanyahu concluded.
Arye Deri attended cabinet meeting despite High Court ruling
He waited until Sunday despite a letter from Attorney-General Gali Baharav-Miara on Thursday that called for him to fire Deri, reportedly to give his longtime ally time to decide whether to resign on his own accord. The delay created tension, as some politicians accused Netanyahu of purposely dragging his feet and showing contempt for the High Court.
The termination of Deri’s tenure will come into effect on Tuesday morning.
Deri still attended the cabinet’s weekly meeting on Sunday, reportedly because its agenda included an update regarding the national health basket, which the Health Ministry under his lead had worked on last week. His seat to Netanyahu’s right was left vacant while Netanyahu spoke to the press at the beginning of the meeting. He entered the meeting after the press had left the room and did not stop to speak to reporters in the hallway.
However, the Likud released a picture from the meeting of Netanyahu and Deri speaking to each other, presumably to show that Netanyahu still considered him an ally.
Deri later on Sunday participated in a meeting of all of the coalition party leaders, and a picture was circulated from that meeting as well.
Lapid: This isn't a government, it's a circus
In response to the cabinet meeting, opposition leader Yair Lapid said in a statement: “What we see here is not a government, it is a circus. Netanyahu is weak, but already today he should appoint a full-time health and interior minister.
“In the cabinet meeting this morning, Deri was fired due to corruption, but the ministers from the Religious Zionist Party boycotted the meeting in protest of the defense minister abiding by the law.
“What did they not talk about? Senior citizens, students, high cost of living, violence in our streets [and] young parents.
“The citizens of Israel should not pay the price for this government’s corruption and mayhem,” Lapid concluded.
The High Court ruled that Deri’s appointment as a minister was “extremely unreasonable” both due to his criminal past and because he had intentionally misled a court approximately a year ago when he promised that he would not rejoin politics, presumably to receive a lenient plea bargain for tax offenses.
The ruling was a 10-1 decision. Some of the justices 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, Supreme Court Justice Noam Solberg, to determine whether Deri’s actions in his 2022 conviction had included moral turpitude. If so, Deri would be barred from serving as a minister for seven years.
Deri may still remain an MK.