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Israeli Minister Aryeh Deri must resign from his post, according to the Supreme Court. Deri, the head of the hardline Shas party, was given a suspended prison sentence last year for tax fraud. In response, he said that he had no intention of resigning. Deri is the deputy prime minister, minister of interior, and minister of health.
The ruling could lead to the first cabinet crisis for Prime Minister Netanyahu’s coalition. It depends in parliament on the support of the Shas party. The coalition holds 64 of the 120 seats, 11 of which are held by Shas.
It also intensifies the debate about the strength and independence of the judiciary in Israel. The far-right government wants to curb the influence of the Supreme Court in favor of Parliament. So tens of thousands of Israelis have taken to the streets recently. They warn that it undermines the democratic rule of law.
A change in the law has recently been introduced that removes the ban on a convicted person participating in government. This paved the way for Deri to become a minister. The Supreme Court has now ruled that out. It is now up to Netanyahu whether he dismisses his deputy or intensifies the battle with the judiciary.
Deri was also convicted in 2000 of bribery and fraud, among other things. He was sentenced to three years in prison, of which he served 22 months. At the end of 2012, he returned as leader of the Shas party, of which he was a founding member, and was elected to the Knesset.
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