| 25 May 2024, Saturday |

Netanyahu fires minister, complying with order from top Israeli court

In accordance with a Supreme Court decision, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired a senior cabinet member with a criminal past on Sunday, all the while pursuing contentious judicial reforms that would limit the court’s authority.

During the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu informed Aryeh Deri he was being fired from the interior and health ministries. According to an official transcript, Netanyahu pledged to use “all legal means” to maintain Deri in public office in the future.

A Deri confidant, Barak Seri, told Army Radio earlier on Sunday that the portfolios would be kept by other members of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish party Shas as it remains in the coalition.

The Supreme Court last week ordered Netanyahu to dismiss Deri, citing his 2022 plea-bargain conviction for tax fraud.

That ruling stoked a stormy debate in Israel – accompanied by nationwide protests – over reform proposals that Netanyahu says will restore balance between the branches of government but that critics say will undermine judicial independence.

A poll in Israel Hayom newspaper found 35% support for Netanyahu’s bid to shake up the system for bench appointments, with 45% of respondents opposed. There was just 26% support for his government’s bid to enable parliament, with a one-vote majority, to override some Supreme Court decisions.

In his cabinet statement, Netanyahu described the Deri ruling as “regrettable” and “indifferent to the public will”.

The less than month-old religious-nationalist coalition creaked elsewhere as a far-right partner boycotted the cabinet session in protest at the demolition on Friday of a small settler outpost that had been erected in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Galant, a member of Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party, ordered the outpost razed as it had no building permit – over the objections of the Religious Zionist party, which had sought to delay the decision.

The incident pitted Galant against Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich, who wields some cabinet responsibilities for West Bank settlements under a coalition deal with Netanyahu.

Orit Strock, the National Missions Minister of Religious Zionism, told Israel’s Kan radio that “this (settlements) is a capstone problem for our participation in the administration.” She chose not to go into further detail about potential future course of action.

Jewish Power, a member of the far-right coalition and an ally of Religious Zionism, declared it would demand Israel carry out the long-delayed evacuation of Khan al-Ahmar, a Bedouin Palestinian settlement in a crucial West Bank region close to Jerusalem.

In order to avoid dealing yet another setback to efforts to negotiate the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, world powers have urged Israel not to destroy Khan al-Ahmar. The majority of nations consider Israel’s West Bank settlements to be illegal.

  • Reuters