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Likud MKs might block bill which could bring ousted Shas minister back to the government

High Court of Justice ruled that Deri, convicted for tax crimes, was not fit to serve as a cabinet minister

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Minister of Health and Internal Affairs Aryeh Deri at a government conference at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem on January 15, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

While the Israeli government is working on a bill that would bring Shas party head and ousted government minister Aryeh Deri back into a ministerial role, Knesset members from the Likud party said they would not support the bill, unless Netanyahu finds senior positions for two Likud MKs.

Following a ruling by Israel's High Court of Justice that Deri, convicted for tax crimes, was not fit to serve as a Cabinet minister, Netanyahu was prompted to fire Deri from his assigned roles as minister of health, minister of the interior and vice prime minister.

The High Court of Justice found that it would be “unreasonable in the extreme” if Deri were allowed to continue in those positions, both because of his past criminal convictions and because of the plea deal he made during one of his trials that he would withdraw from political life.  

While Netanyahu said in January that he would fire Deri from the government, he said he was doing so “with a heavy heart” and promised that he would find “any legal way” to bring Deri back, a move the coalition government supports.

For that purpose, a bill is being prepared that would amend one of Israel’s Basic Laws to make it possible for the Knesset to nullify the power of the High Court of Justice to disqualify Deri. 

According to Israel’s Channel 13 news, the draft of the bill reads, “The Government would legislate that no court at any level has the authority to conduct a judicial review of the appointments of ministers ‘for any reason whatsoever, except for eligibility conditions’ that are technical in nature.”

Members of Netanyahu’s Likud party, however, are losing patience with the prime minister's intense efforts to secure Deri’s political life as a member of the government, according to Israel’s Channel 12 news. They reportedly feel that he has not extended similar efforts to senior Likud MKs David Amsalem and Danny Danon, both of whom did not receive ministerial positions when Netanyahu formed the new government.

“It’s not acceptable that for the Shas chairman, Netanyahu is pulling out all the stops, but for senior Likud officials, he doesn’t lift a finger,” Likud insiders were quoted as saying.

Amsalem was the most senior of the Likud MKs who did not enter a prestigious ministerial post in Netanyahu’s government. When the present government was being formed, Amsalem wanted to be appointed minister of justice or Knesset speaker and reportedly turned down other ministerial positions when he failed to receive either post.

Netanyahu assigned a number of these posts to members of the Likud party’s coalition partners in the government. 

Amsalem was one of Netanyahu’s most loyal supporters before the two had a falling out and several clashes since. On Wednesday, Likud MK David Bitan warned that if Netanyahu does not appoint Amsalem to a ministerial position, he would “pay a price.”

“There are various suggestions, but at the moment, there’s nothing,” Bitan said. “There’s a lot of unhappiness among Likud voters about this, and Likud activists.” 

Danon, the other senior Likud MK who was denied a ministerial role, served as Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations from 2015 to 2020 and is currently chairman of World Likud. 

The Religious Zionism party, led by Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, is reportedly not happy with the bill that would return Deri to the government, as it is concerned the law could undermine the government’s proposal to overhaul the judicial system. 

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

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