PM calls for coalition to pass law extending DST

Shas, Meretz blame each other for delays in legislation after clocks are turned back one hour.

Man looks at his watch daylight savings DST 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/David Gray)
Man looks at his watch daylight savings DST 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/David Gray)
The Knesset must pass a law to extend Daylight Saving Time in the coming months, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Sunday, hours after the clocks were turned back one hour and several ministers spoke out against the move.
Netanyahu instructed coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) at a Likud ministers’ meeting to “get into the thick of things” and promote legislation on the issue as soon as the Knesset’s winter session begins on October 15.
DST was last dealt with in a Knesset Interior Committee meeting in late February of this year, which ended without any progress on two private bills and a ministerial bill on the matter, with MKs and Interior Minister Eli Yishai’s associates placing the blame on each other.
“There is no reason in the world that DST should not end in late October, for the good of all of Israel’s citizens,” Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said at the Likud ministers’ meeting.
Referring to claims that haredim are delaying legislation, Steinitz added that it is in the interest of all religious people to extend DST, and he hopes a bill doing so will pass soon.
Science and Technology Minister and Habayit Hayehudi chairman Daniel Herschkowitz, who is a rabbi and a professor of mathematics, reinforced Steinitz’s statements, saying religion can no longer be used as an excuse for shortening DST.
The Yom Kippur fast is 25 hours long no matter what, Herschkowitz said. “The time has come to stop this saga,” he said.
“DST has nothing to do with matters of religion and state. The decision must be made by professional experts according to market considerations.”
Herschkowitz wasn’t the only minister to speak out.
“I can’t understand why someone would shorten DST,” Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat said. “There is no justification and no good reason. It is a waste of energy and electricity, and it must be changed.”
Livnat called for DST to continue until November, which is what Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz’s bill would do. It passed a preliminary Knesset reading in June 2011.
The Interior Ministry submitted legislation based on the recommendations of a committee of experts that would have DST end on October 1. MKs Ronit Tirosh (Kadima) and Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi) proposed a compromise, in the form of a bill having DST continue until October 10.
At the February Knesset Interior Committee meeting on the three bills, Horowitz said he was unwilling to compromise on the end date for DST “on principle,” saying Israel should change its clocks at a similar time to Europe. European Summer Time extends from the last Sunday in March until the last Sunday in October each year.
Yishai’s office pointed to Meretz as the reason the bill is not progressing. A spokesman for Shas explained that, in cases when ministries and individual MKs propose similar bills, they try to come to a compromise, and so far, those attempts have not been successful.
If no compromise is reached in the coming weeks, the Interior Ministry will bring its bill to a vote without the support of MKs who proposed similar legislation, Yishai’s office said, but would not specify their deadline to get Horowitz’s backing.
A member of the Knesset Interior Committee’s professional staff, who is not affiliated with a political party, said that DST had not been discussed since February, because other issues were higher priorities for MKs.
“It’s not like Horowitz asked for there to be a meeting on DST every week and was rejected,” the staff member quipped.
“Every year this ritual is repeated, and people use DST as an excuse to come out against religious people. Back in February [Knesset Finance Committee chairman] Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) said in the meeting that this isn’t a religious issue; Tisha Be’Av is a long fast in the middle of the summer.”
Knesset Interior Committee chairman Amnon Cohen (Shas) refused to comment on the issue.
Horowitz said that Shas’s claims he is to blame for the DST legislation’s lack of progress “does not hold water.”
“Since when did Shas stop something they wanted to do because of Meretz’s three seats in the Knesset?” Horowitz said. “Shas doesn’t need us; they’re playing games.”
The Meretz MK does not plan to compromise or remove his private members bill extending DST to November 1, but did not see that as standing in Yishai’s way.
MK Ronit Tirosh (Kadima), who is willing to accept the Interior Ministry bill because it is “better than nothing,” also did not accept Shas’ reasoning.
“Why don’t they bring the Interior Ministry bill to a plenum vote? Why haven’t there been discussions in the Knesset Interior Committee?” she asked.
Rebel Shas MK Haim Amsalem called the issue “unnecessary and bordering on stupid.”
“This has no connection to religion or halacha,” he explained. “It annoys the general public for no good reason, and just makes them angry at religious people. There is no logic here.”
Amsalem pointed out Jews all over the world manage fasting on Yom Kippur regardless of when DST ends.