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Netanyahu Fires Key Ally From Cabinet

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has fired a crucial ally from his cabinet after the country’s Supreme Court annulled the appointment, leaving the stability of the newly sworn-in coalition in question.

Israel’s Supreme Court ruled last week that the ministerial ­appointment of Shas party leader Aryeh Deri was “extremely unreasonable” in light of his conviction last year for tax evasion. The court also noted his subsequent promise to quit political life as part of a plea deal and his conviction two decades ago on bribery, fraud and breach-of-trust charges while in office, for which he served nearly two years in prison.

The Attorney-General said Mr Netanyahu must fire Mr Deri to remain in compliance with the court’s ruling, but didn’t provide a deadline.

The order has put Mr Netanyahu in a bind because Mr Deri and his party are still demanding a senior role in government ­despite the court’s ruling. The government could lose its majority if Shas, an ultraorthodox party, leaves the coalition. Shas controls 11 seats in the ruling coalition of 64 MPs in Israel’s 120-seat parliament, the Knesset. Political analysts say it is unlikely Shas will want to bring down the conservative government so soon after its establishment.

Mr Netanyahu, in a letter to Mr Deri dismissing him from his cabinet positions, said on Sunday that he was firing him with “a heavy heart”, and that the court’s ruling had undermined the will of those who voted for Mr Deri and the current coalition.

“This sad decision ignores the will of the people,” Mr Netanyahu wrote.

Also on Sunday, ministers from the ultranationalist Religious Zionism Party boycotted a cabinet meeting in response to a decision by Mr Netanyahu and his Defence Minister to raze an ­illegally built outpost in the occupied West Bank two days before.

Mr Netanyahu gave Religious Zionism Party leader and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich control over a military body inside the defence ministry that controls civilian affairs in the West Bank. But that body has always been under full control of the ­defence minister, leading to a disagreement over who had the authority to decide the fate of the outpost.

“It’s simple. We want the coalition agreements to be respected,” National Missions Minister Orit Strock, a member of ­Religious Zionism told Army Radio on Sunday.

The ruling against Mr Deri comes as Mr Netanyahu’s government is rolling out a plan to overhaul the justice system, which coalition members demanded be expedited in light of the court’s decision on Mr Deri.

Should the judicial overhaul pass in parliament, it will give the ruling coalition control over which judges are appointed, limit the top court’s ability to strike down laws and allow a simple ­majority of Knesset members to override the Supreme Court should it strike down legislation.

Some current and former justice officials – including the current Attorney-General and Supreme Court chief judge – and the political opposition say the ­judicial reforms could undermine the country’s ­existing system of checks and balances.

Mr Netanyahu and his allies have defended the wide-ranging proposals as necessary to restrain what they say is judicial overreach.

Israeli media estimated that more than 100,000 people protested on Saturday night against the proposed judicial overhaul, the third week that mass protests took place.

Thousands more protested in other big cities including Jerusalem and Haifa.

Article link: https://todayspaper.theaustralian.com.au/infinity/article_popover_share.aspx?guid=e7264590-4e24-43bb-9b9d-07da3a155431
Article source: The Australian / Wall St Journal | Dov Lieber | 24 January 2023

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000

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