Likud: Opposition to Shabbos Work Permits Won’t Affect Smotrich Appointment

MK Beאzalel Smotrich. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

Another Cabinet crisis may have been averted Monday, after United Right List MK Betzalel Smotrich said that if it were up to him, he would not authorize any work on Shabbos if he were appointed transportation minister – but those decisions were made by the labor minister.

“It’s not clear to me in whose interest it is to spread ‘spin stories’ about what I would or would not do,” Smotrich wrote in a social media post Monday. “The responsibility for issuing work permits for Shabbos falls on the labor minister, Chaim Katz, and not the transportation minister.” With the comment, Smotrich deflected criticism of his possible appointment as transport minister, because of his stance on issuing work permits on Shabbos.

Smotrich and party-mate Rafi Peretz are set to meet with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Monday on the inclusion of the United Right List in Netanyahu’s interim government – which Likud officials have said is actually a “shadow government,” as it is expected that any minister Netanyahu appoints now will retain their post after the September elections, assuming Netanyahu forms a government.

Peretz is widely expected to be named education minister. Smotrich fought bitterly for the post of justice minister, but in the end that post went to Likud MK Amir Ohana. Smotrich was then offered the post of transportation minister, but Likud officials said that because of his opposition to work being conducted on Shabbos – and the alleged need for road and train infrastructure work to be done on the holy day – Smotrich was not the right person for the job.

In a statement, the Likud said that the demands Smotrich had on work permits on Shabbos were irrelevant. “The reports on demands by MK Smotrich are incorrect, and as it happens the issuance of these permits is done by the labor minister, not the transport minister.”

A report on Kan News Monday said that Netanyahu would again attempt to promote unity among all the right-wing parties, this time pushing them to run on a single list in an effort not to lose any votes. Netanyahu’s objective is to ensure a victory of at least 61 MKs on the right, so that he can form a government without Avigdor Liberman. Netanyahu is expected to discuss that unity effort with Peretz and Smotrich at their meeting Monday, the report said.