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December 12, 2017 3:40 pm

Controversial Shabbat Bill Passes First Reading in Israeli Knesset

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The Israeli Knesset building. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

JNS.org – The Israeli Knesset on Tuesday approved a controversial bill that would limit commerce on Shabbat. The legislation passed its first reading in a 59-54 vote and will now head to the Knesset’s Internal Affairs Committee, which will draft it for its second and third readings.

Shas party leader and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri had threatened to resign if the so-called “supermarket bill” was not approved, a move that could have destabilized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition. Netanyahu and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin returned from a state visit to Europe on Monday night in order to secure the necessary majority.

The bill, designed to placate the haredi parties that want to see no commerce on Shabbat in accordance with Jewish law, essentially grants the interior minister the power to override city bylaws that allow business on Shabbat.

The measure encountered fierce resistance from both the Israeli opposition and the Yisrael Beiteinu party, a governing coalition partner. Even though the coalition would still have 61 Knesset seats — the minimum majority — without Yisrael Beiteinu, coalition MKs Sharren Haskel (Likud) and Tali Ploskov (Kulanu) opposed the bill.

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Opposition MKs slammed the bill as cowering to Israel’s haredi parties.

“Instead of conducting a real dialogue about what shape the modern day of rest should take, all we see are attempts to appease the religious parties,” MK Itzik Shmuli (Zionist Union) said.

MK Michal Rozin (Meretz) said the haredi parties were “power drunk.”

“This will lead them nowhere. We have to put a stop to their extortion. We have to clearly state that the secular majority will not allow the [haredi] minority to impose itself on our way of life,” Rozen said.

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