Secular Israelis have nothing to worry about, Minister Ofir Akunis said in an interview Tuesday: The Likud “under the leadership of Binyamin Netanyahu will in no way advance a halachic state. If there is a need to carry out work on Shabbos, we will do so. That work will take place in order to avoid harm to tens of thousands of soldiers and citizens who need to use the trains. There is no breaking of the status quo here.”
Akunis was responding to a story on Kan News that in order to close up a deal with religious and chareidi parties before the deadline for the formation of a government after the April elections, he agreed that all work to be done on Shabbos by government bodies, such as highway construction or construction of the train system, would be brought before the Chief Rabbinate for approval before being carried out. The arrangement was a condition of the coalition agreement of the religious parties with the Likud.
The report generated a tidal wave of condemnation from secular politicians. Yair Lapid said that “the coalition agreement that was unveiled is just the tip of the iceberg. If you vote for Netanyahu you vote for a halachic state.” Avigdor Liberman said that “these agreements are a total surrender to the chareidim, designed to destroy the status quo agreements on religion and turn Israel into a halachic state. Little by little the scandals that are costing Israelis billions of shekels are being revealed.”
Akunis said in the interview on Reshet Bet that the panic was unnecessary. “Israel is not turning into a halachic state. Liberman can repeat the lie that we are working towards this all he wants, but it will not convince anyone. Israel under Netanyahu, and not just him, has always been democratic and Jewish, not a halachic state, and this will continue.”