Israeli Political Parties Resolve Coalition Crisis Over Work on Shabbat
JNS.org – A crisis within Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition ended on Sunday with the prime minister’s Likud party and Israel’s haredi parties striking a compromise that will keep the coalition intact.
Health Minister Yakov Litzman resigned last Friday over the government’s refusal to prohibit railroad maintenance work on Shabbat, when all work is prohibited by Jewish law. Litzman heads the United Torah Judaism party.
Sunday’s compromise calls for the Knesset to pass the so-called “status quo bill,” cementing into law an arrangement that has guided the state since its inception—incorporating Jewish law into the country’s generally secular conduct. Under the status quo agreement, supermarkets will remain closed on Shabbat throughout Israel, with the exception of Tel Aviv, where Israel’s High Court of Justice has ruled that supermarkets and convenience stores can operate on Shabbat.
Likud and the haredi parties also agreed that Israel Railways may continue to perform essential infrastructure and repair work on Saturdays, when trains do not run, to avoid heavy commuter traffic on weekdays. In exchange for the haredi parties’ concessions on these issues, the Likud-led coalition will pass a law that will allow Litzman—the outgoing health minister—to be appointed as a deputy minister with full ministerial authorities, overruling a recent High Court decision barring a deputy minister from acting as a minister.