JERUSALEM, Jan. 22 (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired a senior cabinet member with a criminal record on Sunday.
Netanyahu vowed to find “all legal means” to keep Aryeh Deri in public office in the future and told him at the weekly cabinet meeting that he was being removed from the interior and health ministries, according to an official transcript.
A Deri confidant, Barak Seri, told Army Radio earlier on Sunday that the wallets would be held by other members of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish party Shas as it remains in the coalition.
The Supreme Court last week ordered Netanyahu to fire Deri, citing his 2022 conviction for tax fraud.
That ruling sparked a stormy debate in Israel — accompanied by nationwide protests — over reform proposals that Netanyahu says will restore balance between government departments, but critics say will undermine the independence of the judiciary.
A poll in the Israel Hayom newspaper showed that 35% supported Netanyahu’s bid to shake up the bank appointment system, while 45% of respondents opposed it. There was only 26% support for his government’s attempt to allow parliament, by a majority of one vote, to override some Supreme Court decisions.
In his cabinet statement, Netanyahu described the Deri ruling as “deplorable” and “indifferent to the public will.”
The less-than-month-old religious-nationalist coalition cracked elsewhere when a far-right partner boycotted the cabinet meeting in protest of Friday’s demolition of a small settler outpost set up in the occupied West Bank.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Galant, a member of Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party, ordered the outpost razed to the ground because it lacked planning permission — despite the objections of the Religious-Zionist Party, which had sought to reverse the decision. to postpone.
The incident pitted Galant against Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich, who has some cabinet responsibilities for West Bank settlements under a coalition deal with Netanyahu.
“This (settlements) is a final piece for our participation in the government,” National Missions Minister Orit Strock of Religious Zionism told Israel’s Kan radio. She declined to elaborate on what steps the party might take next.
In solidarity with religious Zionism, the far-right Jewish Power coalition party said it would demand that Israel carry out a long-delayed evacuation of Khan al-Ahmar, a Bedouin Palestinian encampment in a key West Bank area near Jerusalem.
World powers have urged Israel not to destroy Khan al-Ahmar as they worry about another possible blow to efforts to negotiate with Israel on the creation of a Palestinian state. Most countries consider Israeli settlements in the West Bank illegal.
Written by Dan Williams Edited by Raissa Kasolowsky and Frances Kerry
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Principles of Trust.