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Complying with court ruling, Netanyahu dismisses Shas leader Aryeh Deri in Cabinet meeting

Deri said he and Netanyahu agreed to obey the court “very shortly after the publication of the decision”

Minister of Health and Internal Affairs Aryeh Deri seen outside his home in Jerusalem, Jan. 22, 2023. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed Shas party leader Aryeh Deri from his ministerial duties at the end of the premier’s weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday, reading out the letter of dismissal. 

Netanyahu praised Deri in the letter, calling him “an anchor of experience, wisdom and responsibility that are important to the State of Israel.” 

He stated that the dismissal was only imposed in keeping with the order by Israel’s High Court. 

“I am forced with a heavy heart, with great sorrow and with extremely difficult feelings, to remove you from your position as a minister in the government,” Netanyahu said, adding that he would seek “any legal way in which you can continue to contribute to the State of Israel from your vast experience and skills, in accordance with the will of the people.” 

Deri, who arrived late to the meeting, after most of the official photographers left, responded to Netanyahu directly, “Honorable Prime Minister, I hear in your voice the sadness over the court’s decision and its implications.”

Deri also said that he and Netanyahu agreed to obey the court order “very shortly” after the decision’s publication, saying, “It was clear to both of us that we would uphold the court’s decision.”

Withholding Deri’s dismissal until the end of the meeting, Netanyahu praised the minister for his efforts leading Israel’s health ministry. 

“I commend Deputy Prime Minister Aryeh Deri, the members of the basket committee and the people at the Health Ministry for their important work here,” he said. 

Following the Cabinet meeting, less than a day after attending an anti-government rally in Tel Aviv, opposition leader Yair Lapid added further criticism of the government on social media

“What we see is not a government, it’s a circus. Netanyahu is weak, but he needs to appoint a full-time health minister and interior minister today,” he said. “The citizens of Israel should not pay the price for the corruption and mess of this government.”

Lapid also criticized a Religious Zionism party boycott of the meeting, in response to the expulsion of the Or Haim illegal outpost. 

Religious Zionism leader, Bezalel Smotrich, is the new finance minister but also holds a position within the Defense Ministry. Smotrich had sent an order to not evacuate the outpost but Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant overruled his command.

“Ministers from the Religious Zionist Party boycotted the meeting in protest of the defense minister keeping the law,” Lapid said. 

A Friday poll by Israel Channel 12 showed 63% of respondents agreed with the High Court’s decision to disqualify Deri. Only 27% said they disagreed. However, the poll also showed a high level of discontent with Lapid’s performance as opposition leader, with only 48% of opposition voters saying they were satisfied with his performance.

The High Court’s ruling last week, calling Deri’s appointment “extremely unreasonable,” was a near unanimous decision, 10-1. The justices said that Deri intentionally misled the court in his 2022 conviction, promising not to rejoin politics as part of his plea bargain. 

Judge Yosef Elron, the lone dissenting justice, did not approve of Deri's appointment but rather said Netanyahu was required to consult the Central Election Committee chairman, High Court Justice Noam Solberg, to determine whether Deri’s actions in his 2022 conviction consisted of moral turpitude. If that determination is made, Deri will be barred from seving in any public office for seven years.

Netanyahu has 48 hours to find a replacement for Deri, who held both the Interior Ministry and Health Ministry portfolios. Deri can still remain a Knesset member and will continue as the Shas party leader. 

As prime minister, Netanyahu could in principle hold both portfolios, but given the three indictments against him he is forbidden as serving in any ministerial role other than the premiership.

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

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