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Deri 2.0: Bill enabling Shas leader to return as minister could reach Knesset next week

Second attempt at restoring convicted Knesset member to minister position underway

Head of the Shas party Aryeh Deri, leads a faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, Feb. 13, 2023. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Separate from the proposed judicial reform that has sparked massive protests around the country, another bill could soon come before the Israeli Knesset that would prevent the Supreme Court from intervening in ministerial appointments.

Dubbed "Deri 2.0," the bill would enable the leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, Aryeh Deri to return as minister after being barred recently by the Supreme Court from serving as such. Deri has two prior convictions on bribery and tax fraud.

This latest attempt follows a previous amendment passed by the government to allow Knesset members with suspended sentences in the past seven years, such as Deri, to serve as ministers. That law passed and was even upheld by the Supreme Court.

However, in a bombshell ruling last month, the high court said it was “unreasonable in the extreme” for Deri to serve as a minister especially after, as part of his plea bargain in January 2022, he allegedly promised to leave politics in exchange for a suspended sentence and no label of moral turpitude. He stepped down for seven months.

After the Nov. 1 election, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed his key coalition ally as minister to both the health and interior ministries when his government was sworn in, but had to fire him weeks later.

Nevertheless, the new bill would amend Israel’s Basic Law thereby placing ministerial appointments outside the purview of the courts and allowing the prime minister full control in the selection process.

“There will not be judicial review by any level of court about any matter connected to, or resulting from, the appointing a minister and removing him from his position, save for the appointment meeting the conditions of eligibility set out in section 6a and 6c alone,” the original legislation said. 

The bill could go before the full Knesset next week, where it is expected to sail through.

And it is not surprising. After the ruling last month, Deri shrugged off the decision and, in subsequent interviews, promised his return, hinting at the current legislation.

“I’ll be back as a minister when the Knesset passes legislation (allowing for this). Whether that’s in two weeks, one month or two months,” he told Channel 12 news at the time.

While such legislation could be struck down by the Supreme Court, the government has a plan for that too: As part of the judicial reform package, the Knesset would be granted the ability to overrule High Court decisions with a simple majority.

This would go along with another provision of the reforms which would bar the court from striking down amendments to Basic Laws unless the ruling was unanimous. If the coalition passes this, the High Court would be unable to maneuver against the Deri Law.

Nicole Jansezian was the news editor and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS.

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