Ministers said demanding Deri be made alternative PM, a complex and risky move

(left to right) Yoav Gallant, Aryeh Deri, Benjamin Netanyahu, Yariv Levin and others during a Knesset plenum session on forming the government, in Jerusalem, December 29, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
(left to right) Yoav Gallant, Aryeh Deri, Benjamin Netanyahu, Yariv Levin and others during a Knesset plenum session on forming the government, in Jerusalem, December 29, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Some ministers in the government have started banding together in a demand for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to appoint Shas party leader Aryeh Deri as alternate prime minister, after Deri was disqualified yesterday by the High Court of Justice from serving as a minister over his repeated criminal convictions, the Ynet news site reports.

It is a longshot option and implementing it would be complex and risky, since it could end with Deri being disqualified from serving even as a Knesset member.

The role of alternate prime minister was created in 2020 by Netanyahu and Benny Gantz for their short-lived power-sharing government, and was also utilized by the subsequent government of Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid, which was replaced last month. Netanyahu and his new hardline government have vowed to nix the legal option of having an alternative prime minister, arguing that there should be only one national leader.

Netanyahu is indeed not thrilled about the prospect of appointing Deri to a role he has sought to cancel entirely, but he is short of options as Deri is refusing to be made Knesset speaker, demanding a higher-level role, according to Channel 12 news.

Making Deri alternate premier would have to involve the government passing a no-confidence motion against itself and forming a new, power-sharing government. However, since the High Court has never ruled whether a criminal convict can be appointed to the role, the matter is likely to come before the judges.

The court could condition the appointment on a Central Election Committee ruling on whether Deri’s tax offense conviction from last year carries “moral turpitude,” which would mean he can’t hold any public office for seven years. In such a case, which is not unlikely, Deri would automatically cease being a lawmaker and be downgraded even further.

The Kipa news site quotes an unnamed Likud MK objecting to the idea: “We will do everything to return Deri to the government table. But giving Deri [the role of] alternate prime minister won’t happen. We won’t go back to the days of two prime ministers. The State of Israel has only one prime minister and his name is Benjamin Netanyahu.”

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