Defying Supreme Court, minister vows not to resign even if judges rule against him

Interior Minister and Shas chairman Aryeh Deri reportedly unwilling to step down as minister, even if the Supreme Court rules he is ineligible to serve.

By World Israel News Staff

Shas party chairman and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri vowed that he would defy the Israeli Supreme Court if it rules that he must resign from the government, Channel 13 reported.

The report claims that Deri told fellow Shas lawmakers at a faction meeting Monday that he would remain in office, even if the court hands down a ruling that he is ineligible to serve.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the matter later this week.

The case revolves around Deri’s January 2022 conviction for tax offenses. As part of a plea bargain, Deri resigned from the Knesset while remaining chair of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party.

Prior to the formation of the new government in late December, the Knesset passed legislation, dubbed the “Deri Law,” limiting the application of the Basic Law’s moral turpitude clause that bans convicts from higher office.

While the previous version of the law could be used to bar anyone convicted of a crime constituting moral turpitude, the updated version limits this provision to individuals who have served jail time for such offenses. In his plea bargain, Deri was given a suspended sentence.

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Despite the change to the law, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a challenge to Deri’s inclusion in the government on the grounds that the Knesset may have abused its constitutional powers by passing the Deri Law, without consulting the Central Elections Committee.

Following Monday’s meeting of Shas lawmakers, multiple Shas party MKs spoke out publicly against the Supreme Court, vowing to overturn the decision.

“The court does not miss the opportunity to shoot itself in the foot,” Welfare and Social Affairs Minister Ya’acov Margi told Radio Kol Hai.

“A decision against Minister Deri will constitute severe damage to the choice of hundreds of thousands of voters. If the court wants to use the ‘legal unreasonableness’ clause, the issue will be brought before the prime minister and [the clause] will be canceled. Is it not ‘reasonable’ in the eyes of the judges that 400,000 voted for Shas?

“If desired, the legal unreasonableness clause can be canceled in 72 hours, and then the judges will not have the ability to cancel [Deri’s appointment]. I hope the judges act wisely and do not disqualify Deri,” he said.

Should the court rule against Deri and the minister makes good on his vow not to resign, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will likely come under pressure to fire the Shas chief – a move that could threaten his new government.

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The case comes in the midst of efforts by the new government to pass a series of major judicial reforms curtailing the Supreme Court’s ability to overturn Knesset laws and granting greater autonomy to government ministries.