Israel’s Netanyahu Fires Cabinet Ally, Heeding Court Ruling

Last Update: January 22, 2023, 5:45 PM IST

Netanyahu is now expected to appoint other governing members to replace Derri, at least temporarily (Image: Reuters)

Netanyahu is now expected to appoint other governing members to replace Derri, at least temporarily (Image: Reuters)

Netanyahu announced that he was sacking Arya Deri, who served as Minister of the Interior and Health, at a meeting of his cabinet.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sacked a key cabinet aide on Sunday, following a Supreme Court ruling ordering him to do so and deepening a rift over the power of the courts.

Netanyahu announced that he was sacking Arya Deri, who served as Minister of the Interior and Health, at a meeting of his cabinet. Israel’s Supreme Court ruled last week that Deri could not serve as a cabinet minister because of his conviction last year on tax crimes.

The court’s ruling came as Israel became embroiled in a dispute over the power of the judiciary. Netanyahu’s far-right government wants to weaken the Supreme Court, limit judicial oversight and give more power to politicians. Critics say the move erodes the country’s system of checks and balances and puts Israel’s democratic fundamentals at risk.

According to his office, Netanyahu told Deri that he was removing him from his position with a “heavy heart and great sadness”.

“This unfortunate decision ignores the will of the people,” Netanyahu told Deri. “I intend to find some legal way for you to continue contributing to the State of Israel.”

Derry said he would continue to lead his party and assist the government in furthering its agenda, including legal changes.

Derri’s firing is also expected to shake Netanyahu’s governing coalition, a union buoyed by ultranationalist and ultra-conservative parties including Derri’s ruling, which is the third largest party in the government. While some Shas MPs threatened to shut down the fledgling coalition after the court ruling, it is expected to try to survive Derry’s absence and craft legislation that would pave the way for his swift return.

Netanyahu is now expected to appoint other governing members to replace Derri, at least temporarily.

Derry has long been a kingmaker in Israeli politics and has become a key ally of Netanyahu, who has repeatedly relied on him to join their governments and back his agenda.

Netanyahu’s government, the most right-wing in Israel’s history, has made the country’s judiciary a centerpiece of its agenda. It says that a power imbalance has left judges and government legal advisors with too much control over lawmaking and governance. Critics say the overhaul could help Netanyahu, who is himself on trial on corruption charges, avoid punishment or have his trial disappear altogether.

The plan has drawn sharp criticism from top legal officials, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, former lawmakers and tens of thousands of Israelis who have come out repeatedly to oppose the overhaul.

In a significant step towards bringing the governing coalition together, Israeli legislators last month changed a law that barred a convict on probation from becoming a cabinet minister. This cleared the way for Derry to join the government but was challenged by the Supreme Court.

Derry has faced legal problems in the past. As interior minister in the 1990s he was sentenced in 2000 to three years in prison for bribery, fraud and breach of trust. He served 22 months in jail but made a political comeback and took back the reins of governance in 2013.

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(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed)