Israel's incoming coalition advanced several bills in preliminary votes on Tuesday, including one that will allow the leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party to be a minister despite criminal convictions.
If passed, this would be a change to a Basic Law, allowing Shas leader Aryeh Deri to take up the position of interior and health minister. Deri is also set to become finance minister later in the government's term.
The ultra-Orthodox lawmaker resigned from the last parliament (Knesset) as part of a plea deal that saw him admit to minor tax offenses and pay a fine in exchange for a suspended sentence of one year. Current Israeli law bars anyone sentenced to prison within the last seven years from becoming a minister. However, it is vague if this applies to suspended sentences as well.
Other advanced bills included one expanding the national security minister's authority, a role expected to be taken up by far-right lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir. If passed, the bill would transfer powers from the police to the national security office.
Before the vote, outgoing Public Security Minister Omer Barlev warned that broadening Ben-Gvir's powers would turn the country into a "police state."
Additionally, the incoming coalition advanced a bill that would create an independent minister that oversees West Bank building - a role likely given to far-right Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich, who has openly supported annexing the area.
Outgoing Defense Minister Benny Gantz criticized the move: “If the desire is to put the territory under civilian control, do not invent offices and administrations, and apply special laws. Just apply sovereignty and deal with the results."