Knesset passes supermarkets bill into law
Controversial bill, which will allow the interior minister to strike down municipal bylaws allowing some businesses to operate on Shabbat, passes with narrow 58-57 majority; Yisrael Beytenu votes against, while Minister Sofa Landver and MKs Sharren Haskel and Tali Ploskov miss vote; Meretz leader Galon petitions High Court against law.
The Knesset approved the contentious supermarkets bill early Tuesday morning in second and third reading, making it into law.
The legislation, which will give the interior minister authority to strike down municipal bylaws—including those permitting some businesses to open on Shabbat—was passed with a narrow majority of 58 in favor and 57 opposed.
Yisrael Beytenu's MKs voted against the legislation, with the exception of Minister Sofa Landver, who had to skip the vote because ministers who vote against the coalition face immediate dismissal.
MK Sharren Haskel from the Likud Party, who announced she would not support the legislation and risked being ousted from her party, was also not present at the plenum during the vote. Kulanu MK Tali Ploskov also missed the vote.
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, who sponsored the bill, wrote on Twitter on Tuesday that "The approval of the Supermarkets Law this morning is not a 'Haredi victory.' It is the protection of the status quo and the victory of the silent majority in the State of Israel that wishes to safeguard the country's Jewish character and to rest on the day of rest."
Meretz leader Zehava Galon petitioned the High Court of Justice against the Supermarkets Law, claiming that "the law is unconstitutional as it disproportionally hurts the Israeli citizens' basic rights for freedom, freedom of religion and freedom from religion by allowing a religious minister to force his own lifestyle on the general public."
Galon asked the High Court to issue an injunction to temporarily stop the law from coming into effect until the court rules on the petition.
Defense Minister and Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Lieberman took to Twitter after the law's passing, writing: "Religious coercion has no place in Judaism or in Jewish tradition. This type of law distances, rather than bring closer, people to Judaism."
The coalition faced an embarrassment overnight after the votes of Construction Minister Yoav Galant and Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan against a reservation raised by Zionist Union MK Itzik Shmuli did not register, allowing it to pass. Shmuli's reservation excluded stores that sell kitchenware from the Supermarkets Law.
Coalition chairman MK David Amsalem rushed to convene the Knesset’s Internal Affairs and Environment Committee to cancel the reservation. As a result, the vote had to be stopped, with the Knesset reconvening Tuesday morning.
Meanwhile, United Torah Judaism MK Yisrael Eichler's voting terminal did not work, leading Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to determine that as long as Eichler remained in his seat, he was voting with the coalition, even though the screens in the Knesset showed a 57-57 tie in most votes.
Ahead of the vote, Amsalem turned to his partners in the coalition and reminded them that the majority's position was at risk, asking them to follow his instructions on every reservation raised.
Opposition members went up to the podium one after the other to argue against the law, with MK Revital Swid (Zionist Union) surprising MK Eichler—who was presiding over the proceedings—telling him the opposition finished raising its reservations while the plenum was empty of coalition members.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked then took the podium and responded to the reservations on behalf of the government for some 40 minutes, going as far as to read out parts of Israel's Declaration of Independence that deal with Israel's identity as a Jewish state.
Several municipalities rushed to enact bylaws before the passing of the Supermarkets Law in an effort to bypass it, including Rishon LeZion, Givatayim and Modi'in.