Mini-market law brings a day of risk over the day of rest
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Mini-market law brings a day of risk over the day of rest

Even if the coalition manages to pass the bill shuttering shops on Shabbat, pundits fear the move could end up tearing apart Likud and society at large

Chulent (Kobi Gideon/Flash 90)
Chulent (Kobi Gideon/Flash 90)

Compromise is a rare enough thing in Israeli politics that when it happens, it’s front page news. On Monday, all three main Hebrew-language papers lead off with a preview of an expected vote later in the day on a law shutting mini-markets on Shabbat, but though all the stories are on the front page, the papers aren’t necessarily on the same page.

Both Israel Hayom and Haaretz play up efforts to soften the bill somewhat by allowing gas station convenience stores to stay open on Shabbat, while Yedioth Ahronoth leads off with opposition to the bill in any form from within the Likud party.

Israel Hayom reports that the bill is likely to pass, crediting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with coming up with the deal to soften the measure and presented a generally favorable view of it, writing that it will keep the status quo in place, since cities where stores can currently be open will be able to maintain that ability under the compromise deal (though it fails to mention that most cities don’t have bylaws allowing them to have stories open since they didn’t need such a law until now).

Not included in the compromise, Haaretz reports, is Eilat, which will have to shutter stores despite being a destination for oodles of non-Jewish tourists. The broadsheet still predicts the bill will pass 59-57, noting Netanyahu declaring that “it has to pass.”

Yedioth also plays up opposition to the bill, with a front page quoting a chorus of Likud ministers saying “the bill will hurt us.” Yet it also thinks the measure will pass, while spotting a possible trap in the hundreds of proposed amendments from the opposition that will need to be slogged through.

“The coalition is taking a big risk… and all it will take is one of the bill’s supporters not paying attention or disappearing for a few minutes for the coalition to wind up in a bad spot,” the paper reports.

With the bill set to pass, Monday marks one of the last chances for the pundit class to try and change some minds, though they stand about as good a chance of doing that as they would from the Knesset plenum.

Going for the personal, former education minister Shai Piron, himself religious, writes an open letter in Yedioth to Shas head Aryeh Deri, who is pushing the bill, calling on him to pull back before it’s too late and appoint a panel to study the matter instead of imposing his will on everyone.

“Believe me, doing so would save everyone from another unneeded front of brotherly hate. Shabbat will not forgive you for what you are doing to it. C’mon, together, we can do something historic. We’ll find a way to think about Shabbat without coercion. Just values. I know you agree with me,” he writes.

Israel Hayom columnist Yehuda Shlesinger also thinks Deri should rethink the legislation, but he recognizes it’s not actually about Shabbat but rather ultra-Orthodox politicking.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri leads his Shas faction meeting at the Knesset, January 1, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“Deri knows that no Haredi person needs a law closing shops on Shabbat to keep from accidentally going to the store on Saturday morning and buying a potato for his chulent. He also knows that no secular person is going to see a store closed and run the synagogue to catch the musaf prayer service,” he writes. “What is pushing Deri and his colleagues is the Haredi press — while ultra-Orthodox MKs are trying to walk between the raindrops with sagacity on issues like mini-markets, train maintenance or the Western Wall, the Haredi columnists are having contests to see who they can give the most venomous headline or tweet to, under the guise of religiosity, and are pushing the MKs to go to war against their will.”

In Haaretz, columnist Yossi Verter doesn’t go after Deri, but rather coalition whip David Amsalem, for trying to get Likud MK Sharren Haskel booted over her plans to not vote for the bill.

“Amsalem’s move, likely with the blessing of the Prime Minister’s Office, is extreme and verges on disturbing. A move like this will place a threat on the MK that she cannot have a moral compass,” he writes.

In Yedioth, columnist Yuval Karni points out that Amsalem is being a hypocrite, given his own rebellion against coalition discipline over a bill in 2016 that would allow the Knesset to boot one of their own with a 90 MK majority. But then again, he writes, Likud is changing, and for the worse.

“That’s not what leftists or nattering nabobs in the media are saying, it’s coming from ministers like Tzachi Hanegbi, Gila Gamliel, Ofir Akunis, Benny Begin and more. It started with the wholesale opposition to the New Likudnikim, continued with the hunt for Likud members demonstrating against corruption or against Netanyahu and has now reached a temporary tipping point with the attempt to kick an MK out of the party just for threatening to not vote with the coalition,” he writes.

Sometimes a party eats its own, though. Just ask Eli Yishai, a onetime leader of Shas who now finds himself on the outside, and after Israel Hayom reported on his plan to get back into the faction, has come under harsh attack, according to a followup by the paper.

One MK calls him a subversive for daring to meet with the Shas council of sages behind Deri’s back and suggests he should be shuttered on Shabbat along with the mini-markets.

“Yishai lost in the elections, is stuck outside the Knesset with millions in debts, embittered and sad, and since then is trying anything to return to the Knesset no matter with which party. In his shame he has prepared a video for the Likudiada Likud summit which will take place over the weekend, with the background of [late Shas spiritual leader] Ovadia Yosef with tefillin and tallit,” the person is quoted saying. “He has no limits, the Likudiada is planned for Friday and Saturday in Eilat, an event that will break Shabbat, but Yishai has no inhibitions and no limits.”

Yishai may be a political refugee, but Haaretz’s lead editorial deals with actual refugees, i.e., the kind that stand to be kicked out of the country under a government plan to deport thousands of African migrants.

The paper slams the government both for a lack of transparency in where it plans on sending the migrants and for the “cruelty” it is displaying in what little is known of the scheme.

“Israel’s renunciation of its duties to the asylum seekers will be remembered as a disgrace. The attempt to shirk its responsibility by making agreements with third countries smacks of racism, even if it is made legal by tricks,” the editorial reads. “Instead of concealing, lying and spending fortunes on immoral workarounds, the state should take in the asylum seekers and let them work and live with dignity, which will go a long way toward alleviating the distress of the residents of south Tel Aviv.”

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