Supreme Court rejects appointment of key Netanyahu ally as minister
According to the Supreme Judges, Shas leader Aryeh Deri, convicted of fraud and bribery, must resign from the Interior and Health Departments. The majority announces battle. The party speaks of a 'political verdict'. Another point of confrontation with the judiciary after the presentation of the controversial justice reform.
Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - A new point of confrontation has opened in Israel between the government and the judiciary, at a time of deep tensions between institutional powers and street protests around the controversial justice reform, among the new executive's priorities.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled that the appointment as minister of Aryeh Deri, leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, is "extremely unreasonable" due to the pending convictions against him, including a recent one for tax fraud with a suspended sentence.
According to the judges, the executive should push him to resign and appoint a replacement, a hypothesis already rejected by Deri himself and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who considers him a key ally within the coalition.
Commenting on the decision, Justice Minister Yariv Levin speaks of an "absurd" choice. His colleagues in the Shas party call it a 'political ruling' to weaken the government at a time of tension between state organs.
The verdict, issued yesterday, was pronounced by the president of the Supreme Court, who ruled with an overwhelming majority of 10 votes in favour and only one against. Deri, the magistrate emphasised, "was convicted three times" and "violated his duty to serve" the country and citizens "loyally".
In her statement following the verdict, the Chief Justice did not spare Netanyahu himself any criticism, who should have considered the "serious accumulation of crimes" pending on the Shas leader before assigning him key ministries such as Interior and Health. In this way, concluded the judge quoted by Haaretz, "it damages the image and reputation of the entire judicial system of the country" and is against "the principles of conduct inspired by ethics and legality".
Now the ball passes to Netanyahu, who will have to accept - or not, as seems more likely - the choice of the judges, who also pointed out the forcing made last month in the Knesset, where an amendment to the law that had allowed the appointment took place.
The leader of Shas is a pillar of the government, which the premier himself - who is also on trial for corruption - cannot do without. In 1999 Deri was sentenced to three years for fraud and bribery and was released after 22 months, returning to Parliament in 2013. Last January he plea-bargained, also for corruption, a suspended sentence of one year and a fine of over EUR 50,000.
In a note, the Shas party confirmed that it does not intend to be part of the governing coalition without the presence of its leader among the ministers. A joint statement by the majority leaders announced battle "in any legal way available to us and without delay, to correct the injustice".
The comment by opposition leader Yair Lapid, is of a very different tenor. He warns the government of blatant violations of the law and the risk of "an unprecedented constitutional crisis" if Deri is not ousted. "A government that does not respect the law," said the former premier, "is an illegal government. It no longer can demand citizens to abide by the law."