For a third time, the coalition on Wednesday postponed a vote on a controversial bill that would ban mosques from using loudspeakers to broadcast the traditional call to prayer.
The proposal, dubbed the “muezzin bill,” has sparked outrage around the Arab and wider Muslim world, including condemnations from Turkey and Jordan. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has thrown his support behind it, citing similar noise pollution laws in some European and Muslim countries, while President Reuven Rivlin has objected to the legislation.
The sponsor of the bill, Jewish Home MK Moti Yogev, said the delay was requested by the prime minister and Knesset speaker in order to “soften the bill to [apply to] the night hours only,” referring to a compromise with the ultra-Orthodox parties reached several weeks ago, which was announced but apparently did not make in into revisions of the legislation. “We are working on it now,” he tweeted.
But according to a report by Channel 10, Netanyahu was seeking to restore the bill to its original form, namely to have it apply both during the day and night hours.
Meanwhile, Likud MK Yehudah Glick and Zionist Union MK Zouheir Bahloul, who have been spearheading efforts to secure agreements between Jewish and Muslim leaders to lower the volume on the prayer calls without need for legislation, took credit for the latest delay.
“The pressure that we — Yehudah Glick and I — have applied has borne fruit!” Bahloul tweeted. “The muezzin law has been taken off the agenda in the Knesset.”
Both Glick and Bahloul on Monday hosted religious leaders in the Knesset to draft an alternative to the bill. The meeting ended with a joint proclamation urging the coalition to nix the bill and create a Jewish-Muslim task force that would deal with complaints about the noise levels from residents, primarily those in mixed Israeli cities.
“I am happy that at this point reason has prevailed over belligerence and division,” Glick tweeted. “The muezzin bill will not be brought [to a vote] today. It is our hope that we will soon be able to see the fruits of dialogue and mutual respect.”
The proposed legislation was approved by a key ministerial panel in mid-November, but as initially blocked by Health Minister Yaakov Litzman over fears it would prevent synagogues from using sirens to announce the onset of Shabbat.
Coalition lawmakers subsequently agreed to amend the legislation to apply only to the overnight hours of 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., thus excluding the Shabbat siren, and prompting Litzman to withdraw his objection.
However, in the weeks since, the proposal has been withdrawn from the agenda by the coalition.
Opposition lawmakers, Arab Israelis, and government watchdogs have balked at the proposed legislation, describing it as a threat to religious freedom and an unnecessary provocation.
Supporters of the bill say freedom of religion should take a backseat to quality of life in this case, describing the call to prayer as noise pollution and a daily nuisance to Jewish residents.
Yogev has said the legislation is necessary to avoid daily disturbance to the lives of non-Muslim Israelis.
“The law to prevent noise from houses of worship was designed to safeguard the sleep of citizens, Jews and Muslims alike,” he tweeted Wednesday. “This law will be brought to a vote when agreements are reached between the bill sponsors and the prime minister.”
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.