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Bill to bar judicial review of ministerial appointments passes first reading

The proposed legislation would allow for Shas Party leader Aryeh Deri to return to his roles as interior and health minister.

Shas Party leader Aryeh Deri. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Shas Party leader Aryeh Deri. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

A bill barring Israel’s Supreme Court from conducting judicial review of ministerial appointments passed its first reading in the Knesset plenum on Monday.

The proposed legislation would allow Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to restore Shas Party leader Aryeh Deri to his previous roles in the new government leading the interior and health ministries. Netanyahu was forced to fire Deri on Jan. 22 after the court ruled that Deri’s appointment was “unreasonable in the extreme” due to a prior tax fraud conviction.

Amendment 16 to Basic Law: The Government prohibits all courts, including the Supreme Court, from ruling on the legality of government ministerial appointments. It was passed by a vote of 63 for and 55 against.

More Knesset oversight of ministerial appointments is provided for in the amendment, including the ability to remove a minister from office.

Coalition whip Likud MK Ofir Katz presented the proposed amendment.

“We believe that the proposal will strengthen the position of the judiciary so that it will focus again on those areas in which it has priority and advantage over the other authorities, and will not restrict the legislative authority,” said Katz.

The opposition blasted the legislation, with opposition leader Yair Lapid calling it a “happy day for criminals” in a Twitter post.

“The law that will allow a convicted criminal (twice) to become a minister passed in the first reading. That’s the only thing this government is concerned with—not cost of living, not health, not security—only corruption laws and vested interests,” wrote the Yesh Atid Party head.

The Supreme Court issued the ruling despite a Knesset amendment passed in December to allow Deri to serve as a minister. The amendment specified that a ban on persons serving as ministers for seven years if convicted of a criminal offense applies only to those serving active jail sentences. Deri was handed a suspended jail sentence as part of a plea bargain on tax fraud last February. The law had been unclear on whether the seven-year ban applied to suspended sentences.

Deri, who immigrated to Israel from Morocco, was also dismissed from his role as vice prime minister in the government following the High Court’s ruling.

“The Supreme Court threw into the trash the votes of 400,000 voters,” the Shas Party said in a statement after the decision.

Shas Party member Michael Malchieli is currently serving as acting interior minister, while another Shas member, Yoav Ben-Tzur, is serving as acting health minister.

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