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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Likud MK David Bitan..(Photo by: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Coalition quarrels may thwart controversial bills
‘Mini-markets bill’ may not have majority as Joint List says it won’t stay away
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called coalition party leaders to coordinate action on Saturday night ahead of votes on controversial legislation in the coming week.

Disagreements in the coalition have brought into question the viability of a bill closing grocery stores everywhere but Tel Aviv on Saturdays, which is part of a compromise between Netanyahu and Haredi parties that are opposed to public violations of the Sabbath.

Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh, who is in the opposition, denied on Saturday a Haaretz report that he reached an agreement with coalition chairman David Bitan and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, both from the Likud, that the mostly Arab faction would absent itself from the vote.

Arab parties have avoided voting on Jewish religion and state issues many times in the past, though not always.

Odeh said at a cultural event in Ness Ziona that his entire faction will vote against the United Torah Judaism-sponsored bill.

The Joint List leader’s statement is more trouble for the coalition, after Yisrael Beytenu said it is sticking with its declaration from a week and a half ago that it will vote against the bill.

Likud MK Sharren Haskel also said Saturday that she will not vote in favor of the bill, saying that it violates individual freedom to choose whether to observe Shabbat or not.

The troubles come as Bitan is under investigation on allegations of corruption while he was deputy mayor of Rishon Lezion, making him less available to whip up votes than usual. The impact of his absence was seen on Monday, when the plenum meeting was less than an hour long because most items were taken off the agenda.

Despite Bitan’s difficulties, a Prime Minister’s Office source said the premier “will not hear of [replacing Bitan] and will certainly not deal with this as long as David says he’s staying in his job.”

Meanwhile, nearly every Likud MK who is not a minister has been jockeying for Bitan’s job.

Technically, scandal- plagued MK Oren Hazan is Bitan’s deputy. A Likud source said that Hazan, who was indicted on Thursday for assaulting officials in his hometown of Ariel, was only given the job for “educational purposes” and is not a real contender to replace Bitan should he resign from his post.

Also planned for this week is a vote on the “police recommendations bill,” banning police from making recommendations to the Attorney-General’s Office on whether to indict the high profile subjects of investigations with an accompanying state attorney.

Although the bill has been changed so that it will only apply to investigations that have not yet begun – and therefore is not applicable to the probes into allegations of corruption by Netanyahu – the opposition plans to use all the tools at its disposal to fight it.

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) said: “We will impose a parliamentary siege on the Knesset in light of Netanyahu and his people’s insistence to promote a series of dangerous bills, especially the recommendations bill that will, more than anything else, help the greatest criminals work against Israel’s citizens.”

Herzog said at a cultural event in the Gan Raveh region that there will be a two-day battle in the plenum and Knesset committees, along with public protests calling on the coalition and the Likud to “retreat from this crazy bills blitz.”
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