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Israel’s Supreme Court ordered the removal of a senior member of the newly formed government this week, a ruling that highlights the brewing showdown between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s conservative coalition and the country’s judiciary, CBS News reported.
The top court ruled that Aryeh Deri, the leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, cannot hold public office because of his “backlog of criminal convictions.” Deri was recently appointed health minister and interior minister.
However, Deri has been convicted of – and served jail time for – breach of trust and financially related crimes, according to the Washington Post. Last year, he pleaded guilty to tax evasion and received a suspended sentence after vowing that he would not serve in government.
But last month, lawmakers passed a law that allows anyone convicted of offenses but not given a custodial sentence to serve as a minister.
In a joint statement, Netanyahu’s coalition slammed the court’s decision, but implied that it had no intention of violating the ruling.
Even so, some Shas representatives warned that without Deri, “there will be no government,” raising concerns that the new coalition could collapse just three weeks into its term.
The developments come as the new government – made up of right-wing and religious parties – is planning a major judicial overhaul that has prompted massive protests across Israel.
The overhaul would include handing more powers to lawmakers regarding the appointment of judges and weakening the Supreme Court’s ability to strike down legislation.