World Jewish News
Likud and ultra-Orthodox parties strike compromise that will keep the coalition intact
A fraught day in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's bureau over the latest Sabbath crisis ended with the Likud and the ultra-Orthodox parties striking a compromise that will keep the coalition intact, Israel Hayom reported.
The crisis began when Health Minister Yakov Litzman resigned over the government's refusal to prohibit railroad maintenance work on Sabbath, when all work is prohibited by Jewish law.
Litzman, who heads the ultra-Orthodox party United Torah Judaism, submitted a letter of resignation on Friday, which went into effect on Sunday.
Netanyahu then spent most of the day trying to navigate the crisis, eventually reaching a compromise with the haredi parties over a number of issues connected to work on the Sabbath and maintenance of the so called ‘status quo’ on matters of religion and state.
The resignation spurred Netanyahu to spend most of Sunday navigating the crisis. He canceled a meeting of coalition party heads after Interior Minister Aryeh Deri and Moshe Gafni, the head of the Degel Hatorah faction of Litzman’s United Torah Judaism party, along with Litzman himself, said they would boycott the meeting. It was the first time since the current coalition came into power in 2015 that a meeting of party heads had been canceled.
Under the terms of the agreement reached between Netanyahu and the haredi parties, the coalition will push through a law that gives the Interior Minister powers to overrule municipal laws that allow shops to remain open on the Sabbath. However the law, will not apply to Tel Aviv. Last month, outgoing Chief Justice Miriam Naor rejected a petition to order Tel Aviv-area supermarkets to remain closed on Shabbat.
With regard to essential works on the Sabbath, it was agreed that Labor Minister Haim Katz to take into account a number of factors including Jewish tradition. Soccer matches on the sabbath will continue unhindered.
Agreement was also reached on promoting legislation that would give deputy ministers full ministerial powers. This will allow Litzman to remain in charge of the Health Ministry, but as a Deputy Minister, a position he held prior to the government being ordered by the Supreme Court in 2016 to appoint a full time minister to the job.
“The coalition is strong and firm and will continue to work for the benefit of the citizens of Israel,” Netanyahu said after the meeting.
Opposition Yesh Atid members blasted the compromise deal, saying the agreement to allow Litzman to head the health ministry with the title of Deputy Minister violated a Supreme Court ruling and would wreak havoc on Israel’s health system.
“The court has ruled [in August, 2015 – ed.]that the prime minister has too much to deal with to be able to run the country’s health system. You’ve got to have a full-time minster,” said party chairman Yair Lapid.
“The citizens of this country deserve the best health service possible. It is a matter of life-and-death; we are speaking about a complicated ministry that demands a full-time minister, not some shady political deal. And now, the prime minister comes along and because of all sorts of political issues, he tries to string together one deal on top of another. This is no way to run a country,” Lapid said.
TPS contributed to this report.