The legal proposal known as the “Deri Law,” intended to enable Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reappoint Shas chairman MK Arye Deri as health and interior minister, passed a Knesset committee vote on Wednesday morning, and will now head to the Knesset plenum for its first reading.
The bill passed 9-6 in the Special Knesset Committee for Amendments to Basic Law: The Government, led by Likud MK Ofir Katz. It may already be put to a vote on first reading later in the day.
The law’s purpose is to enable Netanyahu to reinstate Deri after the High Court of Justice ruled last month that Deri’s appointments as health and interior minister suffered from “extreme unreasonableness” 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 he 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 it is a law intended for personal political purposes and as such was a violation of the Knesset’s constitutional and legislative powers.
The committee’s legal adviser warned that the High Court may strike down the amendment for just this reason. The adviser proposed that in order to avoid this, the MKs could decide that it would only apply from the next government, and not the current one, and thus would not apply to Deri.
The Deri Law is also linked to the coalition’s proposed legal reforms. One of the reform’s provisions is that the High Court cannot strike down amendments to Basic Laws. The coalition will likely pass this law first – and then the High Court will not be able to hear appeals against the Deri Law.
In parallel, the Knesset Home Committee held a session on Wednesday morning on the Gifts Law, which would enable public servants to receive funding for medical and legal purposes. This would include the approximately NIS 4 million that was raised via crowdfunding in order to pay for Netanyahu’s legal fees. The bill is being prepared for its first reading in the plenum.
Opposition MKs, the committee’s legal adviser and Deputy Attorney-General Dr. Gil Limon all criticized the law.
National Unity MK Ze’ev Elkin said that if the coalition claimed that the law had nothing to do with Netanyahu, it should prove it by making the law apply only from the next Knesset onwards. The committee’s legal adviser, Arbel Estarhan, said that “the proposal raises a real concern of damaging the integrity of public service,” with Limon adding that “approving the proposal could lead to activities that today are considered corrupt becoming legal… the proposal is an opening to governmental corruption.”
Immunity for IDF soldiers
Another bill granting broad legal immunities to IDF soldiers and security forces for actions committed during operations, which was scheduled to reach the Ministerial Committee on Legislation but was delayed a week, did not appear on the agenda of the committee’s upcoming meeting on Sunday, indicating that it would again be delayed.
The first delay came after Attorney-General Gali Baharav-Miara warned that the law would make security forces vulnerable to international court petitions. Maariv reported on Wednesday that the additional delay was made after National Security Minister and Otzma Yehudit Party chairman Itamar Ben-Gvir, whose party member MK Zvika Fogel initiated the bill, agreed to wait until two experts on international law, one appointed by him and the other by the Likud, address this issue and change the law proposal accordingly.