Knesset okays Litzman’s return to Health Ministry under Netanyahu

The Knesset passes a law paving the way for United Torah Judaism chief Yaakov Litzman’s return to the Health Ministry as deputy minister, though effectively its head.

Sixty-two lawmakers vote in favor of the amendment to the state’s Basic Law: The Government, to allow a deputy minister to hold de facto authority in a ministry overseen by the premier, thus allowing Litzman to return to the post, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delegating control to him.

Some 38 Knesset members oppose the bill in its third reading. (The vote cleared its second reading minutes earlier 63-37).

The bill soared through its first plenary reading yesterday and was fast-tracked through a Knesset committee for its final readings into law on Wednesday morning, before heading to the plenum for its final votes on Wednesday afternoon in a whirlwind of legislative activity.

Litzman resigned as health minister in November in protest over train maintenance work performed on Shabbat. Since then government officials have been searching for a way of bringing the coalition partner back into the fold.

The UTJ head had previously served as deputy health minister with a minister’s authority between 2009 and 2013, and again in 2015. UTJ lawmakers avoided ministerial positions due to the ultra-Orthodox community’s reluctance to grant full legitimacy to a secular Jewish state.

But a High Court ruling in 2015 said deputy ministers could not fulfill the role of ministers, upon which Litzman received rabbinical approval to serve as health minister in the cabinet. After his resignation last month, Netanyahu took on the portfolio. Litzman will not be a member of the cabinet, however, and thus will not bear responsibility for its actions on matters of Shabbat observance.

— Marissa Newman and Raoul Wootliff

Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed