Israel Railways
Israel Railways Meir Sela

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu averted a brewing coalition crisis Friday morning, settling a government dispute over infrastructure work by Israel’s train system on Shabbat.

The haredi parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, had issued an ultimatum Thursday evening, demanding the Prime Minister restrict work by the state-owned rail company during the Jewish holy day. Giving Netanyahu 24 hours to comply, the two coalition partners, making up 13 of the government’s 67 MKs, threatened to bolt the government if their demands were not met.

On Friday, Netanyahu capitulated to the haredi parties’ demand, ordering that only work in potentially life-threatening situations would be permitted on Shabbat.

Jewish Home MK Motti Yogev welcomed the move, praising the Prime Minister’s decision.

“Keeping Shabbat is a religious value, a national one, and a social one for the Jewish people and State of Israel. I’m happy the Prime Minister intervened in the matter and welcome the decision to prevent and minimize desecration of Shabbat as much as possible.”

“That being said,” added Yogev, “I want to emphasize that this is not just an interest of the haredi parties, and the committee which will approve exceptions for public works on Shabbat needs to include the Chief Rabbis or other state religious authorities for such matters.”

The Prime Minister also called for the establishment of an oversight committee to monitor infrastructure work by the Transportation Ministry and to maintain a clear channel of communication between the ministry and the haredi factions. The new body will also be charged with authorizing work on Shabbat that meets the criteria laid out by the Prime Minister.

The committee will be chaired by the Chief of Staff of the Prime Minister’s Office, and will include the Transportation Ministry Director, Chief of Police, as well as representatives of the haredi parties.