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Poll: Most Likud voters agree with High Court that Deri can’t be a minister

Plurality of Religious Zionism voters, a fifth of those who voted for Deri’s Shas also back ruling; among general public, 70% say minister should either resign or be fired

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, with Interior and Health Minister Aryeh Deri at a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on January 15, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, with Interior and Health Minister Aryeh Deri at a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on January 15, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A majority of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s own Likud party agree with a High Court ruling that his appointment of thrice-convicted Aryeh Deri as minister of the interior and health should not be allowed, according to a poll published by the Israel Hayom newspaper.

Among the general public, 65 percent agreed with the ruling that someone convicted multiple times cannot be a minister. There were 22% who said they don’t agree with the court and that it should not get involved in the matter, while 13% said they don’t know.

The poll found that also among Likud voters, 57% agree with the court, while among Religious Zionism voters, 42% back the court, with 40% opposed, and 18% saying they don’t know.

There were also 22% of voters for Deri’s own Shas party that agreed with the court, and the same portion of voters for United Torah Judaism, the other ultra-Orthodox party in the Knesset. Among Shas voters, 40% backed not complying with the court ruling, with 30% of UTJ voters feeling the same.

A clear majority of the general public believed Deri must go, with 45% saying Netanyahu should fire him and 25% saying he should resign. There were 15% who believe Netanyahu should not comply with the court and another 15% who didn’t know.

Asked what action should be taken if Deri either resigns or is fired, 54% said others should be appointed to the two ministries instead, 18% backed changing the makeup of the coalition, 9% said that new elections should be called, 9% continued to insist that the court doesn’t need to be heeded, and 10% said they don’t know.

Health and Interior Affairs Aryeh Deri seen outside his home in Jerusalem on January 19, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Last week the High Court of Justice ruled that Netanyahu’s decision to appoint Deri as interior and health minister was “unreasonable in the extreme” in light of Deri’s most recent criminal conviction for tax offenses. Deri, who previously served jail time for an earlier graft conviction, pleaded guilty to the tax charges last year as part of a plea deal in which he resigned from the Knesset and received a suspended prison sentence.

Netanyahu is expected to fire Deri during Sunday’s cabinet meeting. Reports Saturday night by Channel 12, Ynet and other outlets said the matter had been coordinated between Netanyahu and Deri.

At the same time, the coalition is engaged in an intensive effort to find a solution that will allow Deri to either remain an integral member of the government or to soon return.

The Israel Hayom poll also sampled opinions on the government’s plans for a controversial major overhaul of the judicial system. A key element of the planned change is the introduction of an override bill that would allow a simple majority of 61 MKs to legislate laws even if they have been struck down by the High Court.

While 29% of the public opposed the so-called override clause, 26% backed the current bill as it stands, and 20% backed an override clause but with a larger majority of lawmakers needed to defy the court on legislation. Another 25% said they don’t know.

As for implementing legislation for the judicial overhaul, 31% of the general public said the government should try to negotiate with opposition parties to reach a compromise on the changes, 25% said the changes should be pushed through quickly without involving the opposition, 26% said the reform should not be advanced and 18% said they don’t know.

Even among Likud voters, 32% backed a compromise with opposition parties, 30% a rapid advance without the opposition, and 21% said they don’t know.

Supreme Court President Esther Hayut and other justices at a hearing of the High Court of Justice on petitions against the appointment of Shas party leader Aryeh Deri as a minister due to his recent conviction for tax offenses, January 5, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The poll also found that overhauling the judiciary is not a top priority among Israelis, who are more focused on the rising cost of living.

Among Likud voters, 70% said that the cost of living is the most important topic to address and only 8% said it was the judicial changes.

A clear majority of voters of the other coalition parties — Shas, UTJ, Religious Zionism, and Otzma Yehudit — likewise named the cost of living as their top priority, according to the report, which did not provide figures for those results.

Opposition parties also prioritized economic issues above others, followed by the social divide in second place.

The internet survey was conducted by Maagar Mochot under Prof. Ytzhak Katz, for the newspaper. It was carried out between January 19 and 20, and sampled 562 people over the age of 18. The margin of error was given as 4.3%

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