The Supreme Court, Israel’s highest court, on Wednesday invalidated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s appointment of Interior Minister Arie Dery, who had been convicted of tax evasion.
At the end of December, Israeli deputies had voted in a hurry for a law, dubbed the “Dery law” by the press, authorizing a person convicted of a crime, but not sentenced to prison, to hold a ministerial portfolio. The objective was thus to allow Arié Dery to obtain a post of minister that he had claimed.
“The Supreme Court has decided that the appointment of MP Arié Dery as Minister of the Interior and Health cannot be validated,” the court said in a statement. “The Prime Minister must dismiss him,” she continues, recalling that Arié Dery had announced in early 2022 that he was retiring from political life following his conviction for tax evasion.
Leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shass party, he was nevertheless re-elected in the November legislative elections. And immediately appointed Minister of the Interior and Health in the government set up at the end of December by Benyamin Netanyahu, with his ultra-Orthodox and far-right allies. The deputies had voted at the end of December the “Dery law” to circumvent the fundamental laws of Israel which serve as the Constitution, and stipulate that an Israeli citizen charged – and a fortiori convicted – cannot occupy a post of minister.
Overturn a Supreme Court decision
The judiciary is the only one in Israel able to control the government and safeguard individual rights, which it did on Wednesday via the Supreme Court in deciding on this appointment. However, Israel’s new justice minister Yariv Levin announced in early January a controversial program of justice system reforms that includes the introduction of a “notwithstanding” clause allowing parliament to overturn a Supreme Court decision.
This reform, which must be submitted to Parliament at a date still unknown, aims to increase the power of elected officials over that of magistrates. It comes as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is indicted for corruption in a series of cases.
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