Coalition in crisis: PM cancels weekly meeting

After haredi minister resigns from gov't over Shabbat work, haredi MKs boycott weekly coalition meeting.

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David Rosenberg,

Yaakov Litzman (c), Hamad Amar (r), Nissan Slomiansky (l)
Yaakov Litzman (c), Hamad Amar (r), Nissan Slomiansky (l)
Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

For the first time since the formation of the Thirty-Fourth Government of Israel in May 2015, the government has cancelled the weekly meeting of coalition leaders, amid an ongoing coalition crisis over government-sanctioned railroad infrastructure work on the Sabbath.

Each week, the leaders of each party included in the governing coalition meet with the Prime Minister to discuss the government’s agenda for the week.

On Sunday morning, however, Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism) submitted his resignation from the Likud-led government, after the coalition failed to reach a mutually-agreeable compromise over infrastructure work planned for the state-owned Israel Railways company during the Sabbath.

Both of Netanyahu’s haredi coalition partners, Shas and United Torah Judaism, as well as the Tekuma faction of the Jewish Home party have pressed the government in recent months to restrict work on the Sabbath by state-owned corporations to essential, life-saving activities.

On Friday, November 17th, Litzman threatened to resign from the government if work planned on the rail line in southern Israel was not put off until after the coming Sabbath. In a compromise agreement between Litzman and Labor and Welfare Minister Haim Katz (Likud), brokered by the Prime Minister, Israel Railways vowed to use only non-Jewish employees over the Sabbath for the project.

After haredi coalition members failed to receive assurances last week that no Jewish employees would be used in work done during this past Sabbath, however, Litzman repeated his ultimatum, vowing to resign from the government if the planned work was not cancelled or delayed.

Litzman submitted his letter of resignation Sunday morning, which will go into effect 48 hours after its signing. Prime Minister Netanyahu has in the interim period become acting Health Minister, and has signaled that he will retained Litzman’s appointees in the ministry and continue his planned reforms.

Following Litzman’s resignation, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (Shas) announced he would boycott the coalition’s Sunday meeting, demanding that the government advance a bill to circumvent a recent Supreme Court ruling and allow the Interior Ministry to enforce laws against businesses operating on the Sabbath.

Finance Committee Chairman Moshe Gafni (UTJ) also signaled that he would not be attending Sunday’s meeting of coalition chiefs in light of the ongoing disagreement regarding work by government-owned corporations during the Sabbath.

In the wake of Litzman’s resignation and the boycott by haredi party leaders to attend, Netanyahu announced that he had cancelled the weekly meeting.








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