In a bombshell 10-1 ruling, Israel Supreme Court nixes interior and health minister appointment of Aryeh Deri

“During a hearing on the petitions against Deri earlier this month, Deri’s attorney claimed that the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court had misunderstood his statement that he was retiring from the Knesset and would henceforth perform public service from outside the parliament.”

Several of the High Court justices took exception to this claim during the hearing itself, including Justice Alex Stein, who said during the hearing, “One cannot say one is retiring [from public life] and get the benefit of a convenient plea bargain for oneself, and after a little while say the opposite and get appointed as an MK and minister.”

Justice Yosef Elron dissented from the majority opinion, writing instead that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should request a ruling on Deri’s appointment from the head of the Central Election Committee to determine whether Deri’s tax fraud conviction bears the designation of moral turpitude and thus whether he can serve as a government minister.”

[Chief Justice] Hayut also pointed out that when the court was asked to decide on Deri’s appointment as interior minister in 2015, it had at that point said his appointment was even then “on the boundaries of what is reasonable” given his bribery conviction in 1999.

Deri received a suspended sentence for his tax fraud convictions in 2022, meaning that the appointment now exceeded the boundaries of reasonableness, she said.

In 1999, Deri received a 4-year sentence, of which he served 22 months in Ramle Prison before being released for good behavior. Accepting bribery as a public official is one of the offenses classified in Israel as having kalon, freely: the stain of moral turpitude, which bars somebody from serving as a public official or running for national office for seven years.

The criterion of svirut, “reasonableness”, is not some invention of a leftist activist court but a legacy of the British administrative law system from the Mandate era.

It should be noted that also right-leaning judges concurred with the “unreasonableness” verdict.

It was not surprising that the High Court of Justice’s activist wing nixed Shas leader Arye Deri from remaining a minister within the government following his two convictions.

What was surprising was that moderate conservatives Yitzhak Amit and Yael Wilner and hardcore conservatives Alex Stein and David Mintz ruled against Deri and that even conservative Yosef Elron left the door open to the Election Commission to nix Deri.

In particular, Stein’s words to Deri were devastating, “his words were empty words.” Put differently, Stein, who has repeatedly found reasons to rule in favor of the policies of the government of Benjamin Netanyahu based on ideology, tossed ideology out the window.

He told Deri: you are a liar, end of the story.

Stein, Mintz, Wilner and Amit were livid that Deri promised in detail to stay out of a public service role, committing to only being involved indirectly from the Shas party.

For them, Deri’s attempts to use mental gymnastics to parse his words so that his promise was only limited to the former Knesset and not future Knessets, was too much to swallow for a thinking person.

According to most of these justices, the High Court of Justice probably has no right to veto the new Basic Law passed to save Deri from being disqualified by the prior basic law preventing a person sentenced to jail time (including a suspended sentence.)

Being ideologically right-wing, they also would be against disqualifying Deri using the “reasonableness test.” These justices, certainly Stein, Mintz and Elron, are card-carrying conservatives who do not believe the court should supplant the reasonableness of the government.

They just could not accept Deri lying directly to the court to get a lenient plea deal.

This response and one-sided vote caught the coalition off guard who expected a far more split vote than 10-1 (with even [the only dissenter] Elron being open to the Elections Commission disqualifying Deri instead of the court.)

Look, Deri is not an idiot — I have never met him in person, but some people in my circle who have did tell me he is unusually bright and charismatic, especially compared to his fellow Shas MKs (a.k.a.”Shilgia ve-aseret ha-gamadim” — Snow-White and the ten dwarves). I have heard him make societal observationHe is clearly somebody who believes that his brilliance and working “for the Great Cause” exempt him from the constraints set upon mere mortals. As the Romans would have put it, quod licet Iovi/Deri, non licet bovi — what is permitted to Jove/Deri is not permitted to the lowly ox.

But there is a point beyond which nec plus ultra (no further), or in Hebrew ad kan (up to here) or simply dai! — enough!

Of course, Deri and Netanyahu are locked in a hora beitzim — an Israeli metaphorical “dance” in which each dances the hora while holding the other by the beitzim. Netanyahu can’t stay in power (and thus keep his own conviction at bay) without the 11 Shas MKs (no opposition party will trust him enough to cross the aisle at this point), and Deri’s party needs Netanyahu to stay at the troughlevers of power.

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