‘Deri cannot continue to serve’: Attorney-general orders Netanyahu to fire minister

“You must act in line with the legal ruling and remove [Deri] from his roles in the government,” Gali Baharav-Miara demanded.

By Pesach Benson, TPS

Israel’s Attorney-general called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to fire Interior Minister Aryeh Deri a day after the Supreme Court disqualified him from government service.

“MK Deri cannot continue to serve as a minister in the Government of Israel,” Attorney-General Gali Baharav-Miara wrote in a letter to Netanyahu that was disclosed on Thursday. “You must act in line with the legal ruling and remove [Deri] from his roles in the government.”

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled 10-1 that Deri, leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, cannot continue to serve as minister.

Shas party leaders have insisted that they will leave the coalition if Deri is fired. He currently holds the dual roles of Minister of Interior and Health. He is also Vice Prime Minister and sits on the influential Security Cabinet.

Shas has 11 Knesset seats, making it Likud’s largest coalition partner. The right-wing coalition currently has 64 of the Knesset’s 120 seats.

Deri dug in his heels, saying in response to the ruling, “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, with God’s help.”

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But a Shas statement against the court decision stressed that its Council of Torah Sages, a rabbinical leadership body with ultimate authority on party matters, will decide how to proceed.

Calls for Netanyahu to fire Deri have mounted, but the prime minister has not publicly responded. He visited Deri at his home on Wednesday night.

Deri’s legal issues stem from a January 2022 plea agreement in which he admitted to underreporting the value of property sold to his brother to avoid paying a land tax. He also admitted failing to report income from the sales and evading tax on 534,000 shekels ($150,770) of income by funneling payments from an investment fund to his brother.

As part of the plea agreement, Deri was given a suspended prison sentence and paid a fine of 180,000 shekels ($50,800).

The plea agreement left unresolved how long a hiatus Deri would take from politics and whether the conviction carried moral turpitude.

Deri was also convicted in 2000 of accepting bribes while serving as interior minister. Due to good behavior, he served only 22 months of a three-year sentence, leaving prison in 2002. He returned to the Knesset in 2013.

If Deri resigns or is fired, his Health and Interior portfolios would revert to the prime minister. However, Netanyahu is legally prohibited from holding any cabinet portfolios because he is in the middle of a corruption trial.

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Netanyahu was indicted on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust from three separate investigations. He maintains his innocence.