Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has responded to a court decision by dismissing a key ally in the government
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sacked a key cabinet ally on Sunday, responding to a Supreme Court ruling ordering him to do so, deepening a row over the courts’ authority.
Netanyahu announced that he would fire Aryeh Deri, who holds the post of Minister of the Interior and Health, at a meeting of his cabinet.
Israel’s Supreme Court decided last week that Deri cannot serve as a cabinet minister due to his conviction last year of tax violations.
The court ruling came as Israel is mired in a dispute over the jurisdiction of the judiciary. Netanyahu’s far-right government wants to weaken the Supreme Court, restrict judicial oversight and give more power to politicians.
Critics say the move upsets the country’s system of checks and balances and threatens the foundations of democracy in Israel.
According to his office, Netanyahu told Al-Dari that he would remove him from office with “a heavy heart and great sadness.”
“This unfortunate decision ignores the will of the people,” Netanyahu told Deri. “I intend to find any legal way to continue contributing to the State of Israel.”
Deri said he will continue to lead his party and help the government advance its agenda, including legal reform.
Deri’s dismissal is also expected to shake up Netanyahu’s ruling coalition, a consortium backed by ultra-nationalist and ultra-Orthodox parties, including Deri’s Shas party, which is the third-largest party in the government.
And while some Shas lawmakers have threatened to be expelled from the nascent coalition in the wake of the court ruling, Deri is expected to survive his absence and try to craft legislation that would pave the way for his speedy return.
Netanyahu is now expected to appoint other Shas members to replace Deri, at least temporarily.
Netanyahu’s government, the most right-wing in Israel’s history, has made reforming the country’s judiciary a centerpiece of its agenda. She says that the imbalance of power has given judges and government legal advisors great influence over the law-making process and governance.
The plan has drawn heavy criticism from top legal officials, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, former lawmakers and tens of thousands of Israelis who have repeatedly turned out to protest the reform.
Deri has faced legal troubles in the past. He was sentenced to three years in prison for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in 2000 during his tenure as interior minister in the 1990s. He spent 22 months in prison, but made a political comeback and regained the reins of Shas in 2013.