Likud MK Yehudah Glick said Thursday that Interior Minister Aryeh Deri’s attempts to get him to the Knesset to vote for a bill hours after the funeral of his wife were “out of place” and “uncalled for.”
Glick’s wife, Yaffa, 51, died last week after a six-month coma following a severe stroke.
The MK told Hadashot TV news Thursday that “two hours after the burial” last Monday, his aides told him Deri, who leads the Shas party, was trying to get him to go to the Knesset to help the coalition secure a majority for a controversial bill to shutter convenience stores on Shabbat.
“Aryeh said ‘it would be Kiddush Hashem [a sanctification of God’s name] for you to sit shiva (the Jewish mourning period) at the Knesset,'” Glick recounted.
“I didn’t treat it seriously, it was so out of place,” he continued. “It was so uncalled-for that I didn’t react to it. I was shattered to pieces at the time. Did he really think… I would spend the entire night there?”
Glick said he was not angry or upset, though he acknowledged that Deri had not spoken to him or apologized after the fact.
Deri, the main proponent of the bill, has admitted he sought to bring Glick to the Knesset, but denied he had exerted undue pressure. He said he had contacted the head of the Har Hebron Regional Council to ask him to check with the rabbi of Otniel, the West Bank settlement where Glick lives, if Glick would be able to attend the vote based on the Jewish laws of mourning.
He was widely panned for the move, which many deemed insensitive and inappropriate.
Glick lamented that leaders sometimes disregard “what is truly important” for the sake of politics.
Deri told Hadashot he had tweeted Glick an apology “if he was offended,” and noted once again that he had not contacted him directly.
The timing of Monday’s funeral caused a mini-crisis in the government, with the coalition initially refusing to postpone the vote and the opposition saying it would not allow any of its lawmakers to bow out to offset Glick’s absence, even though such a move is a customary gesture of courtesy in such cases. With the coalition’s Yisrael Beytenu party opposing the bill and also refusing to offset, Glick’s vote was necessary to ensure a majority.
Deri claimed that his call to the head of the Har Hebron Regional Council was not meant to pressure Glick, but rather to check “whether Jewish law could allow for Glick to come to the vote during the mourning period.
“I wanted Yehudah to do the right thing according to his own choice,” he said.
The bill was passed into law this week. Deri said Thursday he did not intend to enforce it, and sought to downplay his interest in the law, days after threatening to quit the government if it wasn’t passed.
“We didn’t initiate any religious legislation,” he insisted. “I really don’t need this law, because I know that with religious coercion and legislation you don’t get results. Neither I nor the ultra-Orthodox parties proposed the mini-markets law.”
Critics of the law see it as an attempt to force religious observance on the public.
Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.