JERUSALEM (Aug. 19)
In a move that could further destabilize the Israeli government, the High Court of Justice has ordered Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to show cause why Deputy Religious Affairs Minister Raphael Pinhasi should not be removed from office.
A leading member of the Shas party, Labor’s fervently Orthodox coalition partner, Pinhasi has been under investigation on fraud charges, including alleged campaign-finance offenses, in connection with his position as party treasurer.
Petitions had been filed with the court seeking Pinhasi’s removal from his government post until he is tried on the charges against him.
But the court on Thursday postponed its decision on the petitions. Instead, it gave Rabin 10 days to explain why he has not removed Pinhasi.
Anticipation of the ruling had generated much suspense among political observers here. Had the court upheld the petitions, it would have strengthened demands to remove from office another top Shas official, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri.
Deri, the party’s highest-ranking government official, faces charges of bribery and misappropriation in connection with his financial affairs.
The party’s spiritual mentor, former Sephardic Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, complained Wednesday that Rabin was not doing enough to defend Pinhasi and Deri against charges being brought against them by Attorney General Yosef Harish.
Yosef warned that if both Pinhasi and Deri were dismissed, Shas would quit the governing coalition. While that would not automatically bring down the government, it would force Rabin to govern with a Knesset plurality, rather than an absolute majority.