Interior Minister and Shas leader Aryeh Deri said Wednesday that the Supermarkets Law passed earlier this week that grants him authority to strike down municipal bylaws—including those permitting some businesses to open on Shabbat—was more of a declarative than a practical law, stressing that he has neither the authority to, nor intention of, enforcing it.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Yedioth Ahronoth—Ynet’s twin sister print publication—Deri asserted that the submission of the bill was in actual fact forced upon him by circumstances, despite the fact that ultra-Orthodox factions threatened to derail the coalition over the issue at the height of the train crisis.
“We did not initiate any religious legislation. Write this down five times. I really don’t need this law because I know that religious and legislative coercion does not achieve anything. I did not initiate, and neither did the Haredi parties, the Supermarkets Law,” Deri argued in the interview, the full version of which will be published in Yedioth Ahronoth’s weekend edition.
Deri also attempted to assuage fears of skeptics of the law, which passed on Tuesday with a narrow majority of 58 in favor and 57 opposed, arguing that it has less bite than many believe and insisting that he does lacks the authority to enforce it.
“The interior minister has no powers of enforcement. I cannot close down shops on Shabbat,” he sought to clarify.
“I cannot not and do not intend to enforce this law. Every citizen or resident should deal with this law in his city. If none of the residents of Givatayim are bothered about the supermarkets, then fine. I don’t intend to interfere,” he stated.
Deri also hit back against members of the ruling Likud party in the municipalities who came out swinging against the law before it was ratified by the Knesset.
“The Eilat Municipality forbids commerce on Shabbat and despite that fact, everything remains open there. Did anyone enforce the law? No one did, and everything is open,” he stressed.
“Nothing has changed regarding Eilat. The mayor of Eilat doesn’t understand this law because of the incitement in the media.”
Every morning the Eilat mayor opens the newspaper, Deri continued, and is bombarded with a plethora of headlines such as “Aryeh Deri is coming with the keys to close everything, Aryeh Deri is going to shut down the supermarkets or The Haredim have taken control of you.”
Turning his attention to Modi’in Mayor Haim Bibas, who also serves as chairman of the Union of Local Authorities and lead the opposition to the supermarkets bill on the national level and even threatened to petition against it at the High Court of Justice, Deri said he was making a similar mistake due to the fact that “he doesn’t understand the law. They are attacking for no reason.”
Asked about the controversy he sparked by asking the head of the Har Hevron Regional Council to contact the rabbi of the Otniel settlement in which Likud MK Yehudah Glick resides whether it was halachically permissible for Glick to vote on the legislation during his wife's shiva (the Jewish seven-day mourning period), Deri responded nonchalantly, insisting that he was allowed to ask and never attempted to compel Glick into anything.
“The rabbi of the Otniel community got on the phone and said of course it’s halachically permissible according, but every person should do what he feels,” Deri said, before hinting disappointment with Glick’s decision not to attend the vote.
“If I was mourning during the shiva, I would have voted without any hesitation. Unfortunately, I believed in people who distorted what happened there. I won’t mention names, but people took me for a ride,” he claimed.