COALITION CRISIS: Supreme Court rules against Deri – will Netanyahu gov’t fall?

At 4 p.m. Wednesday, the court ruled that the Shas lawmaker cannot serve as minister, forcing Netanyahu to either remove Deri from his cabinet or act in direct contravention to the Supreme Court.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would remove Interior Minister Aryeh Deri from his position should the Supreme Court rule that he cannot serve in the role due to his recent criminal conviction, Israel Hayom reported Wednesday.

At 4 p.m. Wednesday, the court issued its bombshell ruling – against Deri.

Deri has publicly said that he would not comply with a ruling ordering him to step down, and would refuse to resign from his position should the court say he cannot continue as a minister.

Netanyahu must now decide whether to remove Deri from his cabinet or act in direct contravention to the Supreme Court.

“The Prime Minister will express his opposition, but in the end will fire Deri,” a source close to Netanyahu told Israel Hayom.

The source added that the premier will use the ruling as an example of judicial overreach, presumably to strengthen Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s proposed overhaul of the legal system.

“We are in the midst of a major struggle, and here is an opportunity to show people who still don’t think that we need the… reforms how wrong they are,” the source said.

In a defiant interview hours after the Israel Hayom report, Shas MK Yaakov Mergi said that Deri’s removal from power could spark a major coalition crisis and the possible collapse of the government.

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“If Deri is not a minister in the government, there is no government,” Mergi told radio station Kan Reshet Bet.

Mergi added that Shas’ council of rabbinical sages, which shapes the ultra-Orthodox party’s policies and agenda, would order that Shas quit the coalition if Deri cannot serve in a ministerial position.

On Tuesday, Shas MK Avraham Bezalel said that Supreme Court justices would be “shooting themselves in the head” should they rule against Deri.

In 2000, Deri was convicted of accepting some $155,000 in bribes while serving as Interior Minister. He was imprisoned for nearly two years.

In January 2022, Deri was given a one-year suspended prison sentence and a $53,000 fine in exchange for accepting a plea bargain for criminal tax evasion charges.

As part of the deal, Deri agreed to resign from the Knesset. At the time, he was serving as an MK in the Opposition.