Netanyahu gov’t in crisis with right-wing partners – will it last?

Netanyahu fired senior minister Sunday in accordance with Supreme Court ruling, while right-wing ministers are slated to boycott government over dismantling of settlement outpost.

By World Israel News Staff

The new Israeli government faced its first major crisis Sunday, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu under pressure from three of his coalition partners.

The prime minister fired Shas party chairman Aryeh Deri, who serves both as Interior Minister and Health Minister, after the Supreme Court ruled 10 to 1 last week that Deri’s appointment violated the reasonableness standard and is thus invalid.

Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara backed the court’s ruling, instructing Netanyahu to fire Deri should the minister make good on his pledge not to resign.

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

Last week, Shas lawmaker threatened to topple the government if Deri is removed from office.

“I will advise the [Shas party’s] Council of Torah sages that if Aryeh Deri isn’t in the government, there is no government,” Welfare Minister Yaakov Margi told Reshet Bet.

On Friday, the coalition was further strained after the Defense Ministry’s Civil Administration demolished the Or HaHaim outpost, a new settlement established in Samaria in honor of the late Religious Zionist movement spiritual leader, Rabbi Haim Druckman.

The evacuation was carried out despite orders by Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich (Religious Zionist Party), who holds a portfolio in the Defense Ministry, to hold off on any action until a hearing is held on the matter.

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While the government’s coalition agreement places the Civil Administration under Smotrich’s jurisdiction, Defense Minister Yoav Galant (Likud) countermanded Smotrich’s order, instructing police and Civil Administration officials to move forward with the demolition, which was completed Friday afternoon.

The move outraged both Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir (Otzma Yehudit), who had ordered police not to carry out the demolition.

The Religious Zionist Party protested the incident, and according to a report by Reshet Bet on Sunday, the party vowed it will not only boycott government meetings, but also refuse to back the coalition in Knesset votes.

Otzma Yehudit has demanded that the government now implement the long-standing demolition orders, upheld by the Supreme Court, against the illegal Bedouin encampment of Khan al-Ahmar, east of Jerusalem – a move Netanyahu has for years refused to carry out.

According to a report by Yediot Aharonot Sunday morning, Netanyahu is planning to turn to the Opposition for support in relieving pressure from his right-wing allies.

A senior political official cited in the report said the prime minister will turn to Opposition Leader Yair Lapid or former Defense Minister Benny Gantz to join his government, citing pressure from his own right-wing allies as justification for a national unity government.

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The official claimed that Netanyahu is enabling his nationalist partners to press their agenda “from one extreme to the next,” to encourage center-left parties to take the place of the Religious Zionist Party and Otzma Yehudit in the government.