ISRAEL: Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, now faces a potential coalition crisis and a widening division over the courts’ authority after the country’s supreme court ordered him to oust a key friend from the country’s new cabinet.
Aryeh Deri, the influential leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party who has repeatedly served in Netanyahu’s previous governments, was found to be ineligible to be a minister after being found guilty of tax offenses last year and sentenced to probation as part of a plea agreement.
This was determined by ten of the high court’s eleven judges. Deri spoke with Netanyahu following the decision and promised not to resign.
The court, in a statement, said, “Most of the judges on the panel decided that this appointment suffers from extreme unreasonability, and therefore the prime minister must remove Deri from his position.”
Deri was unyielding. “When they close the door on us, we’ll get in through the window. When they close the window, we’ll break through the ceiling,” he said.
The decision was made as a battle over broad reforms to the nation’s legal system raged. The abolition of the court’s “reasonability” standard when evaluating government judgments is one such idea that is being considered.
Critics claim the proposed amendments would weaken the Supreme Court and give the government too much power. According to supporters, they would balance out the executive and judicial branches’ respective power structures.
The ruling, according to the heads of the parties in the ruling coalition, was disrespectful to the electorate following the election on November 1st. In a statement, they vowed to take action “in any legal way that is available to us and without delay to correct the injustice and the severe damage caused to the democratic choice and the sovereignty of the people.”
Netanyahu is unlikely to disobey the verdict, according to Dr. Amir Fuchs, senior researcher at the Israel Democracy Institute, a think tank in Jerusalem, because doing so would put him in contempt of court, and there is no way to appeal a Supreme Court decision.
According to critics, such a step could foster political corruption and violate the law to accommodate someone with a criminal conviction.
The decision could have negative repercussions for Netanyahu’s alliance.
This month, Israeli lawmakers modified a provision that forbade someone on probation from serving as a cabinet minister, a shift considered essential to pulling the governing coalition together. Deri was able to join the cabinet as a result, but it also led to the highest court case.