Yisrael Beytenu to vote against supermarket bill
Coalition party Yisrael Beytenu notifies Coalition Chairman Bitan it will vote against bill granting Interior Minister Deri powers to veto municipal bylaws and bar Shabbat commerce; Meretz officials launch nationwide attempt to counter bill by passing bylaws allowing supermarkets to remain open.
Chairman of the Yisrael Beytenu parliamentary group Robert Ilatov sent a letter to Coalition Chairman David Bitan (Likud) notifying him the party's members intend to break ranks with the coalition by voting against the supermarket bill, that would grant Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (Shas) authority to veto municipality bylaws and order minimarkets be closed on Shabbat.
Ilatov's announcement risks triggering yet another dispute in the coalition, since no member is allowed to vote against the coalition's stance on any Knesset legislation.
"I hereby inform you the Yisrael Beytenu parliamentary group objects to the supermarket bill and demands it not come to a Knesset vote. Should it come to a vote, the party members will vote against it and Minister of Immigrant Absorption MK Sofa Landver will leave the plenum during the vote," Ilatov informed the coalition's head.
Minister of Immigrant Absorption Sofa Landver (Yisrael Beytenu) is expected to leave the Knesset plenum during the vote, as any minister voting against the coalition is fired immediately.
Defense Minister and Yisrael Beytenu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman will not be allowed to vote having resigned from being an MK in May 2016.
The supermarket bill is one of several carrots promised by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to representatives of his coalition's Haredi parties to allay outrage over Shabbat work on railways, which led to the resignation of ultra-Orthodox Health Minister Yaakov Litzman.
The bill, sponsored by Deri, would allow him to strike down municipal bylaws allowing shops to remain open on Shabbat, thereby forcing them to cease all operations on the Jewish day of rest.
The bill will exclude Tel Aviv from Deri's jurisdiction, due to a ruling by the High Court of Justice that minimarkets in the predominantly secular city would remain open on Shabbat.
It will go up to a vote in the Knesset Ministerial Legislation Committee on Sunday, alongside a bill sponsored by Labor and Welfare Minister Haim Katz stipulating that Israeli traditions will be taken into account before a minister provides permits for Shabbat work.
Shabbat commerce has been a hot-button issue over the past few months, with ultra-Orthodox parties seeking to prevent other cities throughout Israel from emulating Tel Aviv municipality bylaws passed in 2014 allowing stores to remain open.
Israel's second largest city may soon be joined by other communities passing similar regulations, with Meretz party elected representatives on multiple local council deciding Wednesday to sponsor similar bylaws.
"We have witnessed a blatant attempt to impose a Halachic (Jewish law) state, perpetrated by some of the ruling parties against liberal local authorities," said Meital Lehavi, chairperson of the Meretz municipal forum and Tel Aviv deputy mayor.
In accordance with Lehavi's opposition to the attempts to close shops on Shabbat, members of the Meretz municipal forum decided that wherever Meretz members were elected to local councils they would promote an amendment to municipal bylaws allowing supermarkets to remain open on Shabbat.
Meretz claimed that in central cities with secular majorities such as Ramat Gan, Givatayim, Ramat Hasharon and Herzliya such municipal legislation may be enacted within a relatively short timeframe.
Lehavi further expounded the existing situation created a discrepancy between Tel Aviv (where a High Court ruling decreed supermarkets may remain open) and the rest of the country.
"Israel's population is heterogeneous and it therefore stands to reason a person chooses to reside in a city and area consistent with his own values. The supermarket bill differentiates between Tel Aviv and the rest of the country and tramples the rights of both local authorities and their residents. We will not stand by as cities other than Tel Aviv are hurt by the interior minister's actions," she vowed.