(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Shas told reporters that Religious Services Minister David Azoulay plans to quit the Knesset on Thursday, even though the minister never resigned.
Interior Minister Arye Deri reportedly leaked the information to the media to pressure Azoulay, 63, who was been hospitalized in recent weeks, making it difficult to get a majority for the Haredi-backed Shabbat bill and leading to the postponement of its final vote until Monday. Deri hatched a plan by which Azoulay would resign from the Knesset but retain his cabinet portfolio, and his son Yinon Azoulay would take his place. The four men preceding the younger Azoulay on Shas’s candidates list already resigned so he can enter the Knesset if the minister quits.
However, despite the announcement and news headlines, Azoulay – who was released from the hospital on Thursday – soon made it clear that he does not want to resign.
“There is no truth to the rumor about my expected resignation from the Knesset,” Azoulay said. “I am in constant contact with the party leader Rabbi Arye and I plan to come [to vote on the Shabbat bill].”
Shas faction secretary Asher Medina told haredi radio station Kol Hai that “the subject of Azoulay’s resignation from the Knesset and having his son enter using the ‘Mini-Norwegian Law’ is in his hands and up to his judgment. At the moment, his son Yinon is next on the list, and when the minister decides, his son will immediately enter the Knesset.”
His refusal stands even though it would fall under the “Mini-Norwegian Law,” which allows one minister or deputy minister per party to resign from the Knesset, but return when he or she wishes, or if the party leaves the coalition, and the person who entered instead will no longer be an MK.
The Shabbat legislation for which the religious services minister was pressured to quit the Knesset is known as the “minimarkets bill,” which would require any municipality that seeks to pass bylaws permitting commerce on the Sabbath to receive approval from the interior minister, something Deri would not give.
The coalition has faced difficulty getting a majority for the bill, because Yisrael Beytenu and Kulanu MK Tali Ploskov voted against it in its first reading and plan to do so again, and the opposition has come out in full force against it as well. Between Azoulay’s illness and Likud MK Yehudah Glick sitting shiva for his wife this week, Shas and United Torah Judaism decided to postpone the vote planned for this week to Monday.