The Israeli Knesset approved on Tuesday amendments to the Basic Law on the Government which would allow for two ministers to serve in one government office. The legislation paves the way for Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich to appoint a minister in the Defense Ministry who will oversee the West Bank, including responsibility over the civil administration and coordination of government operations there, as agreed between him and incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
According to the coalition agreement signed between Religious Zionism and Netanyahu’s Likud, Smotrich will have the authority to appoint the coordinator of government operations in the West Bank and the head of the Civil Administration, subject to the agreement of the prime minister.
On Monday, the Israeli military chief of staff Aviv Kochavi told designated prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he is worried about the transfer of power traditionally under security forces’ purview to Smotrich and incoming National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.
The Knesset also passed on Tuesday morning the so-called “Dery law” to allow Netanyahu’s ultra-Orthodox ally Arye Dery to be appointed minister despite his criminal conviction over tax offenses.
The amendments explicitly define in law that only a member of the Knesset who has actually been sentenced to prison cannot be appointed as a minister. MKs who have been sentenced to probation – like Dery who was convicted at the beginning of the year, will be able to be appointed.
Dery was convicted of tax offenses last February, and in accordance with a settlement with then-Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, he resigned from the Knesset and avoided the need to determine whether his actions carried moral turpitude at the time. This was his second criminal conviction, and he served a prison sentence for his first one.
On Monday, Supreme Court Judge Alex Stein ordered Dery, Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu, the Knesset and the Attorney General’s Office to respond by Wednesday next week to the petition to the high court by the Movement for the Quality of Government against Dery’s appointment as a minister in the new government.
The petition stated that due to Dery’s criminal conviction, at the beginning of the year, he will not be able to serve as minister without the chairman of the Central Election Committee deciding that there is no moral turpitude in his actions.