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Deri said pushing for alternative prime minister role in talks with Netanyahu after court ruling

Shas leader Aryeh Deri is pushing to be named alternate prime minister in ongoing talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, days after the ultra-Orthodox party leader was disqualified by the High Court of Justice to serve as a minister due to his repeated criminal convictions.

Deri and Netanyahu held talks and considered their next move, according to a Channel 12 report on Thursday, in hopes of finding another high-ranking role for the Shas chief, who had been named health and security minister. Interior in the new government, sworn in last month. The report says Netantahyu and Deri want to have a plan in place before Deri officially resigns, as Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara demanded earlier on Thursday, or is fired, but disagreements between the two on the best path to follow remain.

The Kan public broadcaster reported that Netanyahu plans to fire Deri over the weekend and will have to announce a replacement.

According to the Channel 12 report, Deri asked to be named alternate prime minister and insisted on his continued participation in the security cabinet, while Netanyahu offered a number of other avenues, including the role of Knesset speaker. , which Deri would have refuse. The TV report said the Prime Minister has also proposed legislation that would limit the High Court’s right to intervene in ministerial appointments – a decision the court could also block – as the coalition scrambles to find a way to circumvent the court’s decision on Wednesday and give Deri a high-ranking job.

Making Deri an alternate prime minister is also a daunting task, and implementing it would be complex and risky, as it could lead to Deri’s disqualification even as a Knesset member.

Deri’s appointment as alternate PM would force the government to pass a no-confidence motion against itself and form a new power-sharing government. However, as the High Court has never ruled on whether a convicted felon can be appointed to the post, the case is likely to come before the judges.

The court could condition the appointment on a decision by the Central Elections Committee on whether Deri’s tax offense conviction last year – which earned him a suspended sentence as part of a plea bargain – involves “moral turpitude”. Such a designation would mean that he cannot hold any public office for seven years.

In such a scenario, which is not unlikely, Deri would automatically cease to be a member of the Knesset and would be further demoted.

The role of alternate prime minister was created in 2020 by Netanyahu and Benny Gantz for their short-lived power-sharing government and was also used by the subsequent government led by Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid, which was replaced last month . Netanyahu and his new hardline government have vowed to give up the legal option of having an alternate prime minister, arguing there should be only one national leader.

Deri is a key coalition partner in Netanyahu’s hardline government as well as a longtime confidant of the prime minister.

According to Hebrew-language press reports, if all else fails, Netanyahu is considering making Deri an “observer” in the security cabinet, a group of senior ministers tasked with making decisions regarding Israel’s military stance. Israel. , diplomatic relations and other matters of crucial importance to the state.

Netanyahu may also consider convening a so-called “kitchen cabinet,” a small internal security cabinet, in which Deri would participate, Channel 12 reported. The Interior Cabinet is responsible for initiating major wars or military operations, pursuing ceasefires or other diplomatic initiatives, and handling sensitive intelligence matters. Prior to its creation in 2001, prime ministers convened ad hoc war cabinets during national emergencies, including Golda Meir’s famous kitchen cabinet during the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

The High Court on Wednesday ruled 10 to 1 that Deri’s dual appointment as health and home minister was “grossly unreasonable” in light of his recent and past financial crimes, and that Deri had misled into erred a district court into believing that he would retire. political life in order to escape the determination that his recent conviction for tax evasion was “moral turpitude”.

Deri was also convicted and jailed for accepting bribes during a previous stint as interior minister in the 1990s.

Although Shas and coalition partners anticipated the ruling, government officials said they were unprepared for its severity, expecting judges to rely solely on the ‘reasonableness’ test to disqualify Deri from a ministerial position. This allows courts to rule that certain actions or decisions are void because they are grossly unreasonable.

In addition to the “reasonableness” test, however, the court also said that Deri could not back down from his claim to leave the Knesset, and ostensibly politics, as part of his plea deal due to the legal principle of estoppel, which prohibits parties to legal proceedings from amending claims in different proceedings.

Using the estoppel argument may prevent the government from overturning the decision if it proposes legislation to override the “reasonableness” consideration and try to keep Deri in cabinet.

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