Shas party leader Arye Deri.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Shas leader Arye Deri tried to pressure Likud MK Yehudah Glick to come to the Knesset hours after his wife’s funeral to vote on a bill further limiting commerce on Shabbat – which was backed by Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties – before the vote was postponed late Monday night.
In response to a question from a Galei Israel Radio host, Glick’s spokesman Saadya Gordetzky said, “There was pressure. Of course I will not say who and what, but I can confirm this, and I find it very unfortunate.”
Deri later admitted to being the source of the pressure, tweeting: “I feel the pain of Yehudah Glick over the death of his wife. Yesterday I asked... for the rabbi of the town Otniel [where Glick lives] if there was a halachic [according to Jewish law] possibility for him to come to the Knesset during the shiva [mourning period] for the vote that was supposed to happen today and is meant to preserve the holiness of Shabbat. If I hurt the feelings of my friend Yehudah, I apologize.”
The death Monday morning of Glick’s wife, Yaffa, became a political issue as the coalition struggled to get enough votes to pass Deri’s “minimarkets bill.” The coalition and opposition accused one another of behaving insensitively and inhumanely: the coalition because it did not want to postpone the vote, and the opposition because it broke with the Knesset custom of having someone in the opposition absent themselves from a vote when unavoidable circumstances prevent a coalition member from voting.
In the end, Shas and United Torah Judaism decided to postpone the vote.
Before that, coalition chairman David Amsalem (Likud) struggled for days to whip up enough votes for passage, because Religious Affairs Minister David Azoulay was hospitalized, Yisrael Beytenu’s five lawmakers and Kulanu’s Tali Ploskov planned to vote against the bill, and Likud MK Sharren Haskel said she would skip the vote.
The “minimarkets bill” would require any municipalities that seek to pass laws permitting commerce on Saturdays to receive approval from the interior minister, which Deri is unlikely to give. Several municipalities have attempted to rush through such laws before the law has a chance of passing. While the bill would not close any businesses that are already open on Shabbat legally, many stores are open seven days a week illegally. The proposed legislation would give ammunition to those seeking to enforce the law.
Amsalem attempted to soften the bill, to allow gas-station convenience stores and shops in Eilat to remain open, but the Haredi parties refused.
Azoulay hoped to come to the Knesset “to vote for Shabbat’s honor,” as Deri said in a Shas faction meeting. That would have given the coalition a two-vote majority, but when Azoulay’s doctor insisted that he not leave the hospital, Shas and UTJ backed down and agreed to postpone the vote.
A bill can pass with a one-vote majority, but with hundreds of opposition objections to this proposal yet to be voted on, supporters are left with no margin for mistakes.
While there does not appear to be a precedent for an MK coming to the Knesset while sitting shiva, former Kadima MK Eli Aflalo was brought to the Knesset in an ambulance and wheeled into the plenum to vote for the Gaza disengagement, days after he collapsed and was hospitalized.