The Israel Supreme Court Wednesday ruled that Vice Prime Minister Aryeh Deri is ineligible to hold public office.
Chief Justice Esther Hayut’s majority opinion rules that the court must intervene in Deri’s appointment. She explained that, while the court should only intervene in political appointments in extreme circumstances, Deri’s appointment goes beyond reasonability. Deri’s “backlog of convictions,” including having served 22 months in jail following convictions of fraud, bribery, and breach of trust in 1999, cannot be ignored. Hayut also stated that during the plea bargain for his most recent tax offenses, Deri received a reduced sentence on grounds that he resign from Parliament and retire from political life-his new appointment directly contradicts the terms of his sentence.
The dissent, written solely by Judge Yosef Elron, claims that the court cannot make the decision of the legality of Deri’s appointment, and that Prime Minister Bejamin Netanyahu must bring the matter to the Chairperson of the Election Committee (CEC) for determination.
Under Israel’s basic law Section 6(c)(1), individuals who have been convicted of an offense within the seven years prior to appointment can not serve as a minister in the government but may serve as a parliament member in a non-ministerial position. The section notes that the matter can be defer to the CEC to determine whether the offense is not a crime that disrespects and antagonizes societal norms. If the CEC does not find the crime to be scandalous, the CEC may allow the minister to serve.
In December 2022, the new coalition passed what is being called the “Deri Bill,” allowing Deri to serve as minister as a deal between Netanyahu and Deri during the coalition building period. The bill amends the basic law to exclude those who received suspended sentences for their crime. A petition was filed by “The Movement for Quality Government in Israel” to the Supreme Court, who ruled against the bill 10-1.
The decision comes as right-wing policiations in Israel attempt to weaken the judicial system.