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Attorney General will not defend Deri's appointment as minister in petition to High Court

Incoming Minister of Internal Affairs Aryeh Deri at a handover ceremony with outgoing Minister Ayelet Shaked, at the Ministry of Interior Affairs in Jerusalem, Jan. 1, 2023. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israeli Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara announced on Tuesday that she opposes the appointment of Shas party chairman Aryeh Deri as minister in the new Israeli government.

Eleven judges will preside over petitions to the High Court of Justice against Deri’s appointment as minister of health and minister of the interior on Thursday. Baharav-Miara submitted a legal opinion to the justices, arguing that Deri’s nomination for ministerial posts in the new government is “unreasonable.”

Deri has been convicted for criminal offenses no fewer than three times during his political career, including for tax offenses just last year. 

If the justices accept Baharav-Miara’s arguments, Netanyahu will have no choice but to replace Deri in the government, which was sworn in last week. 

To enable Netanyahu to form a majority coalition before the impending deadline, the nascent government passed the “Deri Law,” which allows those who have received suspended sentences in the past seven years to hold ministerial posts.

The legislation, in effect, amended one of Israel’s Basic Laws to enable Deri’s appointment as minister, a demand of the Shas party during the coalition negotiations. In February 2022, Deri was convicted of tax fraud and received a suspended sentence as part of a plea bargain, part of which consisted of Deri promising to retire from public life.

The 11 justices will hear a petition against the new legislation itself on Thursday, which was described by the Fortress of Democracy lobby group as “a personalized law enacted in a hasty procedure.”

“The amendment to the law was accepted while abusing the constitutive authority, which harms the system of governance in Israel and is intended to harm ethical purity based on prohibited personal considerations,” the group said, after the law was passed in late December.

Former Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar said that the “Deri law” makes the Knesset “lower the bar regarding membership in the government.”

“The law is a bad law, a bad law that was extorted form the prime minister and damages the value of purity of public service, for personal reasons,” Sa’ar said.

Deri has been convicted three times, in 1999, 2003 and 2022. In 1999, he was sentenced to four years in prison for accepting bribes, and committing fraud and breach of trust. In both 2003 and 2022, he received suspended sentences. 

In an unusual move, Netanyahu will be allowed to appoint a private lawyer to plead the case for keeping Deri in the government at the Thursday hearing. The move is unusual because it is the attorney general's job to represent the state before the courts. Baharav-Miara will allow it due to the disagreement between her and Netanyahu on the matter of Deri’s appointment. 

Slated for the task is attorney Michael Rabilo, who represented Netanyahu in the past and who served as the primary negotiator for the Likud party during the recent negotiations over the new government. 

Meanwhile, the High Court in Jerusalem reportedly rebuked the government’s refusal to demolish the controversial Jewish outpost of Homesh in Samaria. The Homesh community was established in 1978 and had a population of about 70 families in 2005. That same year,  it was demolished as part of Israel’s decision to withdraw the Jewish population from the Gaza Strip and from four communities in Samaria. 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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