(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The Knesset voted 65-35 early Tuesday to advance a bill that would allow United Torah Judaism leader Ya’acov Litzman to run the Health Ministry as a deputy minister under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked introduced the bill and said it would not make the prime minister any less responsible.
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid opposed the bill, telling the plenum that “the bill would be funny if the health system in Israel did not depend on it, and if the citizens of Israel were not slaves to a nasty political deal.”
Litzman quit his post as health minister on November 26 to protest work being done on Shabbat by Israel Railways.
But Netanyahu met with Litzman and promised that he would amend existing legislation to permit him to run the ministry as a deputy minister, and circumvent a 2015 High Court of Justice ruling that barred him from doing so.
The Knesset House Committee will rush through the bill over the next week in an attempt to pass it to final readings by January 15, which would allow him to return to the Health Ministry that day.
Litzman’s appointees have continued to run the ministry under Netanyahu – who serves as the interim health minister – and would continue to hold the portfolio.
The High Court ruled in 2015 that a deputy minister cannot run a ministry, in a decision that came as a response to a petition by Yesh Atid.
Lawmakers from Litzman’s ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism faction have historically refrained from holding ministerial positions, because ministers have collective responsibility for government decisions, including those that violate Shabbat. Nevertheless, Litzman joined the cabinet after the court decision.
In light of continuing train repairs done on Saturdays, the grand rabbi of Litzman’s Gur Hassidic sect, Rabbi Yaakov Aryeh Alter, ordered him to resign from his post.