Jerusalem, 23 January, 2023 (TPS) — The Shas party announced on Monday afternoon that Knesset member Haim Biton will replace Aryeh Deri as Interior Minister while Michael Malkieli will take the health portfolio.
Malkieli also serves as Religious Services Minister.
The Supreme Court ruled 10-1 on Wednesday that Deri, leader of the religious Shas party, was disqualified from serving as a government minister, saying he had misled a lower court into believing he would retire from politics as part of a plea agreement in January 2022.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired Deri at Sunday’s Cabinet meeting, but suggested there may be other ways to keep Deri involved in the government. Deri was also Vice Prime Minister and sat on the influential Security Cabinet. It isn’t clear if Deri can attend Cabinet meetings as an observer.
In a show of solidarity with the embattled Deri, Netanyahu, the leaders of the other coalition parties, and other senior Likud officials joined Shas’s faction meeting at the Knesset on Monday afternoon.
Netanyahu told the meeting that the coalition “came to save democracy.”
“What is democracy? Rule of the majority and respecting individual rights,” Netanyahu said.
Deri’s legal issues stem from a January 2022 plea agreement in which he admitted to underreporting the value of property sold to his brother to avoid paying a land tax. He also admitted failing to report income from the sales and evading a tax on 534,000 shekels ($150,770) of income by funneling payments from an investment fund to his brother.
As part of the plea agreement, Deri was given a suspended prison sentence and paid a fine of 180,000 shekels ($50,800).
Deri was previously convicted in 2000 of accepting bribes while serving as Interior Minister. Due to good behavior, he served 22 months of a three-year sentence, leaving prison in 2002. Deri returned to the Knesset in 2013.