JERUSALEM, Jan 22 (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired a senior cabinet member with a criminal record on Sunday as he pursues judicial reforms that limit his powers in line with a Supreme Court ruling.
Vowing to find “all legal means” to keep Aryeh Teri in public office in the future, Netanyahu told him during a weekly cabinet meeting that he would be fired from the interior and health ministries, according to an official transcript.
A Terri hopeful, Barak Cheri, told Army Radio earlier on Sunday that the portfolios would be held by other members of Shas, the ultra-Orthodox Jewish party, because of the alliance.
Last week, the Supreme Court ordered Netanyahu to fire Deri for tax fraud in 2022.
The ruling sparked a stormy debate in Israel — along with nationwide protests — over reform proposals that Netanyahu said would restore balance between the branches of government but which critics say would undermine judicial independence.
A poll by the Israel Hayom newspaper found 35% support Netanyahu’s bid to shake up the system for bench appointments, with 45% opposed. With a one-vote majority, his government’s bid to enable parliament to override certain Supreme Court rulings had just 26% support.
In his cabinet statement, Netanyahu described Teri’s ruling as “regrettable” and “indifferent to the public will.”
Less than a month into the religious-nationalist alliance, the religious-nationalist alliance erupted elsewhere, as a far-right partner boycotted a cabinet meeting to protest Friday’s demolition of a small settlement outpost set up in the occupied West Bank.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Galant, a member of Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party, ordered the demolition of the outpost because it lacked a building permit – over the objections of the Religious Zionist Party, which sought to delay the decision.
The incident incited Gallant against Religious Zionist leader Bezalel Smodrich, who holds some cabinet responsibilities for West Bank settlements under a coalition agreement with Netanyahu.
“This (settlements) is a key issue for our participation in government,” Religious Zionism’s National Missions Minister Orit Strok told Israel’s Khan radio. He declined to elaborate on what steps the party might take next.
In solidarity with Religious Zionism, fellow far-right ally Jewish Power said it would demand that Israel implement the long-delayed evacuation of Khan al-Ahmar, a Bedouin Palestinian encampment in the key West Bank region near Jerusalem.
World powers have urged Israel not to demolish Khan al-Ahmar, worried about another potential blow to efforts to create a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Most countries consider Israel’s West Bank settlements illegal.
Written by Dan Williams Editing by Raisa Kasolowski and Frances Kerry
Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.