Coalition risks 'minimarket bill' with one-vote majority

The legislation is part of a compromise Prime Minister Netanyahu made to appease the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Shas and UTJ parties.

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January 9, 2018 03:10
3 minute read.
Coalition risks 'minimarket bill' with one-vote majority

This minimarket in Tel Aviv could be affected if a Knesset bill aimed at shutting down small businesses on Shabbat becomes law. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

 
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The coalition planned to vote on the Shas-led “minimarket bill,” which seeks to prevent more stores from opening on Shabbat, in a final reading overnight Monday despite having only a one-vote majority at press time.

One more vote in favor than opposed is enough to pass a bill, but with hundreds of changes suggested by the opposition that must also be put to a vote, there is a lot of room for mistakes.

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Nevertheless, coalition chairman MK David Amsalem (Likud) decided to proceed with the vote, all the while trying to convince rebelling members of the coalition to get in line, and opposition members to go home without voting on the bill.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a Likud faction meeting on Monday that if the bill were voted down, it had the potential to destabilize the coalition.

The legislation is part of a compromise Netanyahu made to appease the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Shas and UTJ parties, which took umbrage at what they saw as an uptick in public violations of the Sabbath.

Coalition member Yisrael Beytenu plans to vote against the bill, and MKs Sharren Haskel of Likud and Tali Ploskov of Kulanu were expected to skip the vote. In addition, Bayit Yehudi lawmaker Moti Yogev’s mother was buried on Monday and he did not plan to return to the Knesset to vote.

In light of that, Amsalem went to extraordinary lengths to try to whip up votes, including a foiled attempt to eject Haskel from the Likud to punish her for her vote.



Amsalem also called Zionist Union MK Yossi Yona, whose brother died last week, to make sure that he was still sitting shiva and would not surprise the coalition by showing up at the Knesset.

Likud faction administrator Aliza Barashi shouted at Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan’s spokeswoman, Idit Druyan, in front of many people in the Knesset because Ben-Dahan represented Bayit Yehudi at Yogev’s mother’s funeral without getting permission to miss votes. Ben-Dahan planned to return with plenty of time before the minimarket bill vote.

These incidents continued on what has become a morbid theme behind the efforts to pass the bill.

Last week, when Likud MK Yehudah Glick’s wife died, Deri tried to get him to come back to the Knesset to vote less than 24 hours after she had been buried. Deri also tried to get Religious Affairs Minister David Azoulay, who was hospitalized, to resign from the Knesset so someone else could vote in his stead. In the end, the vote was postponed to this week.

The minimarket bill would require any municipality that wants to pass a new local law to open stores on Saturdays to receive the interior minister’s approval, which Deri, the current minister, does not plan to give, though future ministers might. It does not create new enforcement options for the many shops that open illegally on the Sabbath and pay municipal fines.

Commenting on the deaths and illnesses that have held up the bill, opposition coordinator MK Yoel Hasson of the Zionist Union said: “I believe in God.”

At a Zionist Union faction meeting, Hasson said: “Liberal friends in the coalition, when you stretch out your hand to vote for the minimarket bill, hundreds of thousands of Israelis will look up at you with one question: Do you work for us or against us? I call on you to make the right choice and put the will of the public above all.”

Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid said that “this is a bill against Shabbat. Shabbat is supposed to bring people closer, to unite the Jewish people and not create conflict. This bill is insulting to every Israeli citizen – secular, traditional, religious. They’re coming to our houses and telling us what to do.”

Defense Minister and Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman defended his party’s decision to vote against the coalition, saying: “Those who go to the grocery stores on Shabbat are those who work hard all week, pay taxes, serve in the army and do reserve duty....

I think it’s absurd to force a city that’s 80% secular to close minimarkets on Shabbat.”

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