Israel's High Court announced on Wednesday that it has disqualified Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's key ally, Shas chair Arye Dery, from serving in a ministerial position, following the latter's criminal conviction last year and subsequent suspended sentence.
Ten of the 11 justices ruled against Dery's appointment, with Justice Yosef Elron being the only one who believed the appointment should be allowed.
Despite his conviction, Dery was appointed health and interior minister by Netanyahu, who formed the current Israeli government in late December.
Immediately following the decision, Netanyahu arrived at Dery's Jerusalem to discuss their next steps, and according to Israel's Channel 12 News, told him that "When my brother is in trouble, I stand by him."
In her decision, Supreme Court President Esther Hayut stated on Wednesday that "this is a person who has been convicted three times of offenses throughout his life, and he violated his duty to serve the public loyally and lawfully while serving in senior public positions."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was not entitled to ignore the "accumulation of serious corruption offenses," Hayut continued, adding that: "Having Dery in charge of two of the most important ministries in the government damages the image and reputation of the country's legal system and contradicts principles of ethical conduct and legality."
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According to the petitioners to the court, Dery's criminal conviction and the suspended sentence he was given make his appointment unreasonable. In addition, they argued that the amendment to the Basic Law on the Government is unconstitutional.
The petitioners also argued that Dery shouldn't have been allowed to take office since he promised to retire from public life when he was sentenced last year, a promise the court relied upon in approving a plea agreement between Dery and the prosecution in connection with tax evasion charges against Dery.
Attorney General Galia Baharav-Miara opposes Dery's appointment and has refused to represent Netanyahu’s government in asking the court to reject the petition. Baharav-Miara’s position, which was presented to the court, is that Dery’s multiple convictions during his years in public office “lead to the inescapable conclusion that his appointment as cabinet minister will seriously injure the public's trust in the ethics of elected officials.”
The prime minister, who is being represented by private attorneys, claimed, as did Dery, that the Shas party chairman enjoyed the public's trust, despite his convictions, and that the court should not interfere with a matter that should be at the prime minister's discretion.
Earlier Wednesday, Israel's Welfare Minister, Yaakov Margi of Shas, warned that if the High Court disqualifies his party leader Arye Dery from ministerial posts, Netanyahu "knows there will be no government."
"If the court disqualifies him, the prime minister will have to decide what to do," Margi told Kan public radio. "We have said all along that there is no reason for Arye Dery not to serve as a senior minister in Israel."