Report: Coalition aims to quickly restore Deri as minister if court disqualifies him

Government will expedite legislation to eliminate ‘reasonableness’ clause, in order to remove the basis for any court decision to reject Shas chief’s appointment, Channel 12 says

New Interior Minister Aryeh Deri attends a handover ceremony at the Interior Ministry in Jerusalem, on January 1, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
New Interior Minister Aryeh Deri attends a handover ceremony at the Interior Ministry in Jerusalem, on January 1, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

With the High Court of Justice set to deliver its ruling this week on the legitimacy of Shas chairman Aryeh Deri’s appointment as minister, Channel 12 news reported Saturday on the government’s planned course of action should the court disqualify him.

The court is set to rule following deliberations on petitions demanding Deri’s appointment as a cabinet minister be rejected due to his recent conviction on tax offenses.

The report said if Deri is forced to step down, the coalition will expedite its legislative effort to annul the “reasonableness” consideration, which allows courts to rule that certain actions or decisions are void due to being unreasonable in the extreme.

Any High Court decision to invalidate Deri’s appointment is likely to lean on that legal clause, and the coalition hopes a swift legislative process to eliminate it within some two months will allow Deri to return as minister, the report said.

Deri, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s most senior partner in the coalition, currently serves as both interior and health minister.

The petitions against Deri’s appointment, submitted by the Movement for Quality Government, the Movement for Ethical Behavior and a group of private individuals, argue that his 2022 conviction on tax fraud charges, added to his conviction in 1999 on bribery charges, makes his appointment “unreasonable.”

During the High Court session on the petitions earlier this month, judges appeared skeptical regarding the arguments of Deri’s lawyers, who posited that the court did not have the authority to overturn his appointment.

Sources close to Deri later blamed Justice Minister Yariv Levin for antagonizing the court with his legal “bombshell” announced on the eve of the hearing, in which Levin detailed his plans to radically overhaul Israel’s legal and judicial system — severely limiting the authority of the High Court, giving the government the ability to overturn rulings, handing it control over judicial selection, and significantly limiting the authority of government legal advisers.

A government amendment passed last month changed one of Israel’s quasi-constitutional Basic Laws to allow Deri to be appointed to a cabinet portfolio despite having received a 12-month suspended jail sentence in February 2022 that is yet to expire.

The petitions argue that the legislation allowing his appointment was illegitimate, since it was passed due to the political considerations of an individual politician and the new government.

A poll this month indicated less than a quarter of Israelis support Deri’s appointment. The Channel 12 survey found 65 percent of respondents opposed it, 22% supported it and 13% were unsure.

Among supporters of Netanyahu’s bloc, 43% said it was not appropriate for Deri to serve as a minister, while 42% said it was.

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