Netanyahu raps Katz as Shabbat work dispute threatens to topple government

The cabinet meeting comes amid a dispute between Netanyahu and Katz over whether work on the Israel Railways' project needs to be done on Shabbat.

September 4, 2016 11:31
2 minute read.
Netanyahu Katz

Netanyahu and Katz. (photo credit: HADAS PARUSH/FLASH90,POOL)

Ministers are appointed to prevent crisis, not create them, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at Sunday's cabinet meeting, sitting directly next to Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, for whom his words were directly intended.

Katz listened to the brief words stone-face, at times looking at a note in his hands, at other times straight forward, expressionless.

The cabinet meeting comes amid a dispute between Netanyahu and Katz over whether work on the Israel Railways' project needs to be done on Shabbat. The issue threatens to derail the coalition.

“This crisis was completely unnecessary,” Netanyahu said. “There was no reason to get to this situation. Israel has a status quo for many years [on religious issues]. We respect it. When work is needed to be done on Shabbat, it is done, as was done last Shabbat on the Ayalon Highway. When it does not need to be done, it will not be done. That is the rule that guided us in the past, and it will continue to guide us.”

Netanyahu pointed out that over the last seven years his government spent close to 30 billion shekels on transportation infrastructure: building new roads, overpasses and rail lines.

“We were able to do all that without unnecessary crisis,” he said. “When we don't want a crisis, it is possible to prevent it. I expect in this issue full cooperation from all the ministers. Ministers are appointed to prevent crisis, solve problems, not create them.”

Katz did not speak at the opening of the cabinet meeting, nor to reporters on his way into the meeting.

At the meeting of Likud ministers before the meeting, Netanyahu reportedly responded to a question about the crisis by saying that Karz told the haredi parties over a month ago that there would be no work on Shabbat, except in situations needed to save lives.

“In the meantime there was an attempted putsch against me in the [Likud] central committee, that did not succeed, and then it turns out that work is being done on Shabbat and there is an attempt to incite the haredim against the government,” he said. “I will not let anyone carry out a putsch.”

While Likud minister did not speak to reporters before the cabinet meeting, at they often do, Bayit Yehudi Housing and Construction minister Uri Ariel obliged, repeating the age-old adage that “more than the Jews having kept the Shabbat, the Shabbat has kept the Jews.

“There are other solutions and alternatives” to carrying out the work on Shabbat, he said. “It is good that there is a train system, and the necessary work should be done on it during the week and at night. The whole world knows to rest on the seventh day, certainly the Jewish people should do that.”

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