Lieberman's party wages campaign against supermarket bill
Yisrael Beytenu begins gathering signatures on a letter circulated among city councilmen imploring them to vamp up pressure on Knesset members to block bill allowing Deri to shut down stores on Shabbat; 'This bill is forced religion. It harms the lifestyle of the secular residents,' letter reads.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beytenu began ratcheting up efforts to block governmental approval of the supermarket bill being promoted by Interior Minister and Shas leader Aryeh Deri, that legal experts say would include convenience stores at gas stations.
If the bill passes, Deri will be granted authority to nullify municipal bylaws with authorization to shut down supermarkets, mini local stores and convenience stores at gas stations.
With the latest legal opinion that gas station stores could fall within Deri’s remit, Yisrael Beytenu has launched a campaign to apply pressure on local authorities to oppose the bill by circulating a letter slamming it and urging support against it.
Fifty-eight deputy city mayors and Yisrael Beytenu city councilmen began garnering signatures from local officials from across the country for a letter designed to prevent the bill from passing.
Among the signatories are council members from cities including Ashdod, Bat Yam, Hadera, Karmiel, Lod, Ariel, Be’er Sheva, Afula, Acre and the Krayot—a cluster of five small cities around the Haifa Bay area which include Kiryat Yam, Kiryat Motzkin, Kiryat Bialik, Kiryat Ata and Kiryat Haim.
According to the letter, the bill “dramatically alters the status quo that has existed for years and will harm the fabric of life of the secular residents in many localities across the State of Israel and to force them to live under forced religion.”
The letter also notes that the bill undermines the authority of elected civil servants in the municipalities.
“For many years, the authority for this decision was given exclusively to the municipal council members and the heads of the authorities who were elected and empowered by the residents to deal with it,” the letter states.
“The bill as it is currently drafted almost completely deprives the elected local officials of authority and leads to the closure of businesses that today operate on Shabbat, thereby affecting the lifestyle of the secular public that uses these services, also on the day of rest.”
City councilmen were then implored to exert their influence to rally Knesset members behind the struggle to thwart the bill, which it argued constitutes forced religion.
“We call on members of the city councils to oppose the forcing of religion and to join the struggle waged by the party to cancel this unnecessary bill and to use all means at your disposal in order to enlist your faction members in the Knesset behind the struggle,” it read, adding that it was the party’s responsibility to ensure that the wider public is not neglected in the matter.
“We bear the responsibility to represent the wider public and to prevent the serious harming of their lifestyle of the city and municipal locality residents,” the letter concluded.
The bill is set to be discussed at the Knesset Internal Affairs Committee ahead of its second and third Knesset reading. While legal advisors opined that the bill would also encompass convenience stores in gas stations, it remains unclear whether Deri will have the authority to shut down gas stations altogether on Shabbat.
On Monday night, the Rishon LeZion city council approved an amendment to the municipal bylaw allowing businesses (grocery stores and kiosks) to remain open on Shabbat in an effort to outmaneuver Deri’s national national legislation.