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Coalition Sabbath Crisis Kicking Up Again

Calling it "illogical" and "unacceptable," NRP MK Yahalom says his party will not accept the compromise proposal being floated to solve the coalition crisis. The suggested compromise calls for "explaining" Shabbat instead of "enforcing" it.
First Publish: 3/31/2003, 12:23 PM

The first coalition crisis of the second Sharon government may not be on the way to a solution, after all. The government ministers of the National Religious Party - Effie Eitam and Zevulun Orlev - announced on Thursday that they were suspending their membership in the coalition after Minister of Labor Ehud Olmert said he would no longer enforce the Shabbat laws. The law prohibits commercial establishments from being open on the Sabbath, and non-Jewish inspectors are employed to enforce the law and write tickets to those who violate it.

The crisis was initiated when Olmert, at the behest of his friend Justice Minister Yosef (Tommy) Lapid of Shinui, said he would no longer send the inspectors. Orlev said at the time that the move was a "blatant violation of the coalition agreement with Shinui to maintain the status-quo," while NRP MK Sha'ul Yahalom said, "The Likud wishes to divide Israel into two: those who have a good time on Shabbat, and those who have to work and serve them. The Likud is trying to liquidate this masterpiece of Judaism."

Eitam and Orlev met yesterday with Prime Minister Sharon, and in response to his promise to solve the problem and his request to end the crisis, the two ministers agreed to resume active participation in the coalition. "We found a willingness on the part of the Prime Minister to find a solution that will enable the continued enforcement of the Sabbath laws." A spokesman for Orlev told Arutz-7's Yosef Zalmanson that Olmert is supposed to give his final answer within about two days.

It was reported late today, however, that Olmert is considering replacing tickets and summonses with pamphlets or posters explaining the importance of the Sabbath. NRP MK Yahalom rejected the idea out of hand, saying it was not logical and that the NRP would never accept it.