Israel's Sabbath bill put on hold after secular uproar

Miki Zohar

Without a Knesset majority, Likud MK Miki Zohar has backed down on his bill to impose huge fines on businesses open on the Sabbath.

Political sources predicted that the controversial bill introduced by MK Miki Zohar (Likud) imposing huge fines on businesses open on the Sabbath would not win a majority, and that the preliminary vote on the bill would therefore be postponed. Zohar today officially announced that he had postponed the vote at the request of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and members of the Kulanu Party opposed to the law.

"I respect the Prime Minister's request, and will postpone the vote on the bill," Zohar announced. He said that Netanyahu had asked him to reach understandings about the bill before it is brought to the Knesset plenum for a preliminary vote, i.e. to make changes in the bill. "Following the request by the Prime Minister and the Kulanu Party, our important party in the coalition, I decided to accept this request. I will present the bill to the plenum today, but I will put off the discussion and the vote until a date I will set soon."

The bill states that a business working on the Sabbath will pay a fine three times its proceeds on that Sabbath, and will be subject to civil suits from competing business owners. Commenting on the anger aroused by the bill in both the coalition and the opposition, Zohar said, "It is clear to me that this bill is complicated and important for Israel, with broad consequences for the entire population. I believe that this bill has very important Jewish social value, and I will therefore strive to achieve agreements with members of the coalition and the opposition."

This measure comes after Knesset House Committee chairman David Bitan (Likud) told local authorities aides that he would not bring the bill up for a vote. "There will not be a majority in a vote, and I announced that I would prevent the vote, and not bring it up. It will not be implemented as long as I am chairman."

Another factor in the postponement of the vote is the threat by the Kulanu Party that it will not support the bill, in view of a similar initiative by MK Rachel Azaria (Kulanu). According to her proposal, commerce will not be allowed on the Sabbath, but leisure activities will be expanded, and the local authorities will be allowed to operate public transportation in non-religiously observant areas.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on January 6, 2016

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2016

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