The Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee today approved the supermarkets bill, initiated and promoted by Shas, which revises the Local Authorities Law and allows the Minister of Interior to indefinitely hold up new local authority bylaws. The committee's debate preceding the vote was accompanied by disputes and anger. Opposition also came from within the government coalition and Union of Local Authorities head Haim Bibas, a prominent Likud Central Committee member closely associated with the prime minister.
The discussion grew so heated that committee chairperson and coalition chairperson MK David Amsalem (Likud) sent Bibas out of the room, while Bibas explained that the proposed bill would only cause greater desecration of the Sabbath, because the inspectors enforcing the law would be permitted to work on the Sabbath.
Amsalem proposed exempting convenience stores located in filling stations from the bill in order soften the opposition to it; however, neither Shas nor the bill's opponents accepted this proposal.
The version of the bill passed by the committee by a vote of 8-6 did not include the convenience stores exemption. It is scheduled to reach the Knesset plenum tonight for its second and third readings, unless the coalition believes that it lacks the necessary majority.
The Local Authorities Law in its current version authorizes the Minister of the Interior to strike down municipal bylaws for 60 days after they have been enacted. Minister of the Interior Aryeh Deri did not use this authority when the Tel Aviv municipality passed a municipal bylaw allowing businesses to open on the Sabbath in certain parts of the city. The case reached the High Court of Justice, and the Tel Aviv municipality won. The local authorities are currently relying on this ruling.
The proposed bill states that a municipal bylaw on the subject of opening businesses on the Sabbath cannot become effective before the Minister of the Interior signs it. The businesses affected by the bill include supermarkets, kiosks, convenience stores, and filling stations; cafes, cinemas, cultural institutions, and essential businesses are not affected.
In recent weeks, a large number of local authorities have been hurrying to pass municipal bylaws on the opening of businesses on the Sabbath that will take effect before the bill is enacted by the Knesset, so that they can petition the High Court of Justice later and claim that the Tel Aviv municipality is already allowed to do what they want to do.
Obtaining a majority from a coalition of 65 members is proving to be no trivial matter, but the coalition has announced that it is determined in the matter. First of all, the MKs of the Yisrael Beitenu faction have opposed this bill from the beginning. The 2016 coalition agreement under which Yisrael Beitenu entered the government a year after it was formed states that no legislation on religion and state matters will be enacted without the party's consent. They voted against the bill at all stages up until now. As a result, Minister of Immigration and Absorption Sofa Landver is leaving the Knesset plenum (a minister cannot vote against the government). Minister of Defense Avigdor Liberman does not take part in votes in the Knesset plenum, because he is not an MK, and the other Yisrael Beitenu MKs are voting against the bill.
Secondly, MKs Tali Ploskov (Kulanu) and Sharren Haskel (Likud) are also opposing the bill, although it is doubtful whether they can maintain their opposition and vote against the coalition. MK Merav Ben Ari (Kulanu) also said today that she is ideologically opposed to the bill. "I am looking for someone to pair my vote with so that I do not have to vote, but it is difficult to find someone, and if there is no alternative, I will act in accordance with coalition discipline," she said.
Published by Globes [online], Israel Business News - www.globes-online.com - on January 1, 2018
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