Coalition Struggling to Secure Majority for Shabbos Bill

YERUSHALAYIM -
Likud Knesset Member and Coalition Chairman David Amsalem seen on Sunday outside the Prime Ministers office in Yerushalayim. (Ohad Zwigenberg/Pool)

Passage of the Shabbos bill remained in doubt on Sunday, even as coalition parties reportedly agreed to a compromise that would exempt convenience stores at gas stations in order to secure the needed majority.

However, a proposal to exempt the city of Eilat from the restrictions on operating businesses on Shabbos was rejected. Sources close to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu were quoted by Ynet saying that he “was adamant that convenience stores be excluded from the bill and that it will proceed on this condition.”

Voting on the bill, which would authorize Interior Minister Rabbi Aryeh Deri to override local bylaws enacted to circumvent the Shabbos status quo, originally scheduled for last week, was postponed until Monday due to lack of votes.

A spokesman for coalition chairman David Amsalem told The Times of Israel that as of Sunday afternoon the parties were still seeking to formulate a draft that would be acceptable to all concerned, but there was a guarantee that full coalition support would be obtained in the end.

Sharp internal divisions over the issue have come to the fore. On Sunday, Likud ministers squabbled over a move to oust MK Sharren Haskel for opposing the bill.

Amsalem, who is tasked with getting it through the Knesset, filed a petition with the party’s internal court to throw Haskel out of the party for opposing the bill.

“If she doesn’t vote according to the rulings of the party, she cannot continue as a member of Likud,” he said. “She is helping Likud’s rivals and this goes against the party’s constitution, goals and decisions.”

At the weekly cabinet meeting, Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel and Regional Affairs Minister Tzachi Hanegbi sought to avert an expulsion.

“We are talking about a disproportionate response,” Gamliel said, according to a coalition source.

Hanegbi suggested that there were other ways to persuade Haskel to change her mind, short of reading her out of the Likud.