Knesset Passes ‘Supermarket Law’ by Narrow Margin

YERUSHALAYIM -
The plenum hall of the Knesset. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The Knesset passed the “Supermarkets Law” by a one-vote margin on Tuesday.

The bill, passed by a 58-to-57 vote, affords the Interior Minister the right to cancel municipal by-laws that local councils may wish to enact to allow the opening of shops and restaurants in their areas during Shabbos, chalilah.

The vote came after a 15-hour filibuster by the opposition.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who was contending with a number of defiant MKs who said they wouldn’t vote for the bill, declared on Monday that “whoever votes against the bill is in favor of toppling the government.”

Despite criticism from coalition members, including MK Sharren Haskel (Likud), MK Tali Ploskov (Kulanu), and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party, which vowed to vote down the bill, the proposal passed its first reading in a vote early Tuesday morning, 59 in favor and 54 opposed.

Although MKs Haskel and Ploskov were absent from the first reading, as well as Minister Sofa Landver (Yisrael Beytenu), four Yisrael Beytenu MKs voted against the bill.

The second and third votes, which finished just before 7:00 a.m. Tuesday morning, passed by an even narrower margin, with 58 MKs in favor and 57 against.

MK Moti Yogev (Jewish Home) and opposition MK Yossi Yonah (Zionist Camp) were absent from the vote as they are both sitting shivah.

Interior Minister Rabbi Aryeh Deri, who initiated the legislation, threatened to resign from the government if the law was not approved. Voting on the bill had originally been scheduled for last week, but was postponed until this week due to lack of votes.

The final version of the bill requires businesses looking to operate on Shabbos to receive not only permission from their local municipality, but also from the Interior Minister.

Coalition party leaders reached an agreement Sunday to soften the bill, agreeing to exempt convenience stores attached to gas stations from the legislation but rejecting a proposed amendment that would have exempted Eilat.