High Court Rules PM Can Sack Minister for His Political Views

The High Court of Justice on Tuesday published a ruling that the prime minister could fire a minister for his political views or because he opposed the prime minister's political agenda.

The ruling appeared in the High Court's decision to turn down a petition against the June sacking of National Union ministers Binyamin Elon and Avigdor Lieberman by prime minister Sharon, several days before a crucial cabinet vote on the disengagement plan.

The justices stated in their ruling that political considerations in a decision to fire a minister were not improper, even on the eve of a crucial government vote.

In their ruling, the justices stated that the prime minister has the authority to dismiss a minister from his position if he was convinced that by not doing so "the government's ability to function effectively as the state's executive branch would be hampered."

They also said that within his authority, the prime minister can "take into account political considerations such as the need to maintain a coalition and to assure the Knesset's term."

The ruling also stated that if the prime minister was convinced that by transferring a minister who opposes his policies from his position he would guarantee the government's functioning, political considerations "are not improper."

Such a decision could also be made "on the eve of a crucial decision, and the prime minister is not restricted by government guidelines when he uses his authority to fire a minister."

The prime minister's authority to sack a minister also includes cases when "a minister's behavior could cause intolerable harm to the nation, disrupt the government's functioning and raise the risk of the government making a decision that would be ruinous to the state."

The justices ruled however that the prime minister's authority is not unlimited. "The government and its ministers are not insignificant and the prime minister cannot transfer a minister from his position for any minor reason."

Chief Justice Aharon Barak stated in the ruling that "Israel is a parliamentary democracy and its government is a collegial body," and that the government's decision are taken by all its ministers.

Justice Mishael Cheshin wrote that the court should not intervene in the transfer of a minister from his position, other than in cases where corrupt considerations are involved.

Only Justice Edmond Levy blasted in the ruling prime minister Sharon's decision to fire ministers Elon and Lieberman. In his opinion ministers who oppose government policies should only be sacked after a vote.

"It is the minister's right, if not his duty, to express his opinion before the government, for otherwise government ministers would only be yes-men of the prime minister."

Justice Yaacov Turkel also said that the sacking was legal but not moral. "The prime minister was entitled to fire them, but it would not have been appropriate to do so."