Friday March 31, 2023

Netanyahu fires health minister

January 23, 2023

JERUSALEM: Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu removed Sunday a top minister in line with a Supreme Court ruling against Aryeh Deri’s appointment which has shaken the nascent cabinet.

Leader of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish party Shas, Deri played a pivotal role in Netanyahu’s return to power following Israel’s November 1 elections. The premier appointed him health and interior minister last month, but on Wednesday the Supreme Court said Netanyahu “must remove Deri from his position” due to a recent tax evasion conviction. “It is with a heavy heart, with great sorrow and with an extremely difficult feeling that I am forced to transfer you from your position as a minister,” Netanyahu told Deri during a cabinet meeting, according to a statement from the premier’s office.

Deri later said he would continue to promote the government’s agenda and attend regular meetings of the leaders of coalition parties. “No judicial decision will prevent me from serving (my voters),” he said in a statement.

Last year, Deri was fined 180,000 shekels ($50,000) and relinquished his parliamentary seat, but ran for office again in the November polls. The judges said the veteran politician had made it appear as if he had intended to resign from politics to get a lighter sentence.

Lawmakers last month passed legislation allowing anyone convicted of offences but not given a custodial sentence to serve as a minister. The judges ruled Deri’s appointment “could not stand” since it was “extremely unreasonable”, according to a summary of the court’s decision. Netanyahu said on Sunday the ruling, which permits Deri’s Shas party to remain in government, “ignores the will of the people”. The premier added that he will endeavour to find any legal way for Deri to still “contribute to the State of Israel”.