Israel's Deputy Health Minister, Yaakov Litzman (C) from United Torah Judaism party attends a meeting at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem September 13, 2017..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the heads of United Torah Judaism and Shas announced with great fanfare on Sunday night that the crisis over Israel Railways work on Shabbat had been resolved.
But that appeared to have been exaggerated on Monday when the heads of parties in Netanyahu’s governing coalition continued to bicker.
The parties had agreed to pass laws that will permit the Labor and Welfare minister to take Jewish tradition into account when authorizing train repairs; maintain the status quo whereby most stores are closed across the country but open in Tel Aviv; and enable a deputy minister to run a ministry.
The latter two bills are designed to prevent Tel Aviv’s recently approved municipal bylaw that allows grocery stores to open on Shabbat from setting a precedent for similar bylaws around the country, and circumvent a High Court of Justice ruling that resulted in UTJ leader Ya’acov Litzman’s September 2015 promotion from deputy minister to become his party’s first minister in decades.
Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman told his faction Monday that he frequented stores that are open in Jerusalem on Shabbat and he intended to continue to do so. He said he would insist on major changes in the grocery store bill.
“I respect Judaism but there is no connection between Shabbat and what happened,” Liberman said. “It looks like a wild competition within the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) world. The last crisis was one time too many. The bill will be changed, and we have means to deal with it. I don’t want to open stores in Bnei Brak, and there is no reason to close them in Haifa.”
Shas leader Arye Deri reacted by mocking Liberman for not joining the coalition when it was formed. He said that Liberman must honor what the original parties in the coalition agreed upon in the coalition guidelines on matters of religion and state.
Both bills are set to be passed next week in the Ministerial Committee on Legislation and will begin expedited passage in the Knesset the following day.
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, whose petition to the High Court forced Litzman to become a minister, said he would appeal to Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit to strike down the deal Netanyahu reached with Shas and UTJ.
Labor leader Avi Gabbay accused Netanyahu of staging the entire political crisis.
“There was a fake coalition crisis,” Gabbay told the Zionist Union faction. “We live in Spin-istan.”
The heads of Shas and UTJ met Monday night to coordinate strategies for the legislative effort ahead. Deri said most of the meeting focused on bills intended to prevent the drafting of yeshiva students.
Deri told The Jerusalem Post after the meeting that “we are already past Shabbat and now we are working on havdala (the ceremony dividing Shabbat from the work week).”