Sharon Basch is an Israeli American who spent the last two years living in Israel before starting her JD at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired Aryeh Deri from his cabinet Sunday morning, complying with a recent Supreme Court decision demanding he do so. Last Wednesday Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that Aryeh Deri, leader of “Shas” – a far-right religious party with 11 seats in the Parliament – was not eligible to serve as minister. Immediately following this ruling, Netanyahu, Deri, and other right-wing allies insisted that the ruling would not be followed, saying that the ruling itself was anti-democratic, ignoring the 400,000 votes that gave his party 11 seats. Today Netanyahu dismissed Deri from the cabinet anyway.
Anti-Government protests have been taking place since the new Netanyahu government was announced, especially in response to the judicial reforms this government is pursuing. Saturday night saw over 100,000 protestors in Tel Aviv, while thousands more took to the streets in Jerusalem, Haifa, and other parts of Israel. Yair Lapid, opposition leader, tweeted this morning “What we see is not a government, it’s a circus…the citizens of Israel not should pay the price for the corruption and mess of this government.” Whilst the government is actively trying to suppress these protests, opposition members have actively encouraged and even joined them. Leader of the Blue and White party and previous Minister of Defense Benny Gantz tweeted, “We will continue to take to the streets and demonstrate in favor of democracy and against the coup d’état.”
Netanyahu must now scramble to find a new Minister of the Interior and Minister of Health. While to some, this feels like a victory (albeit a very small one), this is no guarantee that Deri will not return quickly. If the proposed judicial reforms pass, the current government will be able to entirely disregard Supreme Court rulings with a simple majority – no opposition will be needed to do so. Deri will swiftly be reinstated if these reforms pass.
There is no sign of protests slowing. On the contrary, more and more anti-government citizens are participating in these protests as each one passes by. Though the firing of Aryeh Deri feels like a step in the right direction, there is a very long way to go before a guarantee that Israeli democracy will be safe. Israelis are a resilient and stubborn people – neither side will eagerly give up the fight for what they believe is democracy for Israel.