The Knesset passed a bill Tuesday morning which will empower the Interior Minister to nullify local bylaws permitting businesses to open during the Sabbath.
The bill, dubbed the “Supermarket Law”, was proposed by Interior Minister Aryeh Deri’s Shas party and backed by the both of the coalition’s haredi factions.
Despite criticism from coalition members, including MK Sharren Haskel (Likud), MK Tali Ploskov (Kulanu), and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party, which vowed to vote down the bill, the proposal passed its first reading in a predawn vote Tuesday morning, 59 in favor and 54 opposed.
While MKs Haskel and Ploskov were absent from the vote, along with Aliyah Minister Sofa Landver (Yisrael Beytenu), four Yisrael Beytenu members voted with the opposition against the bill.
The second and third votes, which finished at approximately 7:00 Tuesday morning, passed by an even narrower margin, with 58 MKs in favor and 57 opposed.
Deri, who initiated the legislation, threatened to resign from the government if the law was not approved in its first reading.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu shortened his trip to Europe and exerted pressure on MKs from the Likud who threatened not to support the bill, namely Sharren Haskel and Yehuda Glick. Glick finally agreed to support the bill in exchange for the coalition's agreement to promote a bill banning the publication of cigarettes and tobacco products, except in the printed press.
The Arab Joint List party announced on Saturday that it would vote against the law, citing haredi support for the Muezzin Law, which would lower the volume permitted for loudspeakers used to call Muslims to prayer.
The government had attempted to recruit the support of the Arab MKs in order to avoid a coalition crisis with Yisrael Beytenu.
Prime Minister Netanyahu chastised coalition members who threatened to vote against the bill, warning that if the proposed law failed to pass, the government could be toppled.
Coalition Chairman David Amsalem (Likud) petitioned to remove MK Haskel, a prominent opponent of the bill, from the Likud. On Monday, however, a Likud party court rejected the petition, and offered criticism of the attempt.
The final version of the bill requires businesses looking to operate during the Sabbath to receive not only permission from their local municipality, but also from the Interior Minister.
Some businesses are exempt from the new regulation, however, including gas stations and attached convenience stores, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, theaters, movie theaters, and concert halls.