Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar rebuffed charges from former presidential candidate MK Meir Sheetrit on Wednesday that his efforts to close stores operating illegally in Tel Aviv on Shabbat were related to the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties’ support for President Reuven Rivlin.
Shas and United Torah Judaism cast what were seen as among the deciding votes in the June 10 secret ballot in the Knesset in which Rivlin defeated Sheetrit (Hatnua) in a second round of voting.
Sa’ar (Likud) ran Rivlin’s campaign and his lobbying was instrumental in his victory.
Speaking on Channel 10 Sunday, Sheetrit accused Sa’ar of organizing a deal for Rivlin to get the haredi MKs’ support in which he promised to close stores in Tel Aviv on Shabbat.
“That is of course a lie that has no grasp in reality,” Sa’ar told Army Radio.
“In the interview, Sheetrit started by saying that there apparently was a deal and then by the end of the interview said that there undoubtedly was a deal.”
Sa’ar said that Sheetrit should have pointed out to the public that the Hatnua faction chairman is close to businessman Dudi Weissman who owns the AM:PM chain of stores that has violated the law prohibiting such stores from operating on Shabbat. Sa’ar said Weissman is the main customer of Sheetrit’s wife Ruth’s advertising business, which he said earns millions of shekels a year from him.
“He should have revealed that in the horrible interview where he spread that lie,” Sa’ar said. “This behavior testifies how right the Knesset was when it picked who it did on June 10.”
Sa’ar reiterated that his decision to uphold the law had no connection to politics or the interests of businessmen.
Business interests had no effect on him in the past and would not in the future, he said.
Sheetrit responded by confirming the business connection between Weissman and his wife but said it had no connection to him. He said he still had no doubt that there was a deal between the Likud and the haredi parties that blocked his election and that closing stores on Shabbat was a small part of the deal.