PM said to mull firing transportation minister over train crisis
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PM said to mull firing transportation minister over train crisis

Netanyahu reportedly believes Yisrael Katz ‘set him up’ for a fight with ultra-Orthodox parties over weekend construction projects

File: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talks with Yisrael Katz during a Knesset plenary session, February 8, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
File: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talks with Yisrael Katz during a Knesset plenary session, February 8, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is considering firing Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz because of a coalition crisis over railway construction on the Sabbath, Channel 10 reported Friday evening.

According to the report, Netanyahu believes Katz created the crisis between Likud and leaders of ultra-Orthodox parties last week when he ordered workers to continue on railway construction projects over the weekend in order to avoid delays.

Ultra-Orthodox parties reacted furiously and this Friday Netanyahu conceded and instructed Israel Railways to halt 17 out of 20 projects expected to take place this weekend.

The three projects that are allowed to continue despite ultra-Orthodox objections are those whose delay, police said, would constitute a genuine risk to human life due to traffic complications. But, the Ynet news website said the ultra-Orthodox parties rejected the police argument and claimed alternative solutions could be found.

According to Jewish law, the religious rules of conduct for Shabbat, such as the prohibition to work or to operate electrical machinery and engines, can be violated when a human life is at risk.

Moshe Dagan, secretary-general of the Chief Rabbinate, said the weekend work is not something that would save human lives and as such would not be allowed.

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz attends the opening ceremony for a new train station in Afula on Monday, August 29, 2016 (Netivei Israel/Handout)
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz attends the opening ceremony for a new train station in Afula on Monday, August 29, 2016 (Netivei Israel/Handout)

“As a representative of the chief rabbis, I would like to announce that our position is that the Shabbat projects for which the railways asked permission have not been approved and cannot be carried out over Shabbat as they do not involve a risk to human lives,” said Dagan.

According to Channel 10, Netanyahu is fuming over both Katz, who he believes set him up for a confrontation with the ultra-Orthodox last week, but also over the Rabbinate and Chief Rabbi David Lau, who took the unusual step of publishing a statement on Friday in reaction to the opinion given by the police.

Lau “is trying to do his primaries over my back,” a Channel 10 analyst quoted Netanyahu as saying. His comments were understood to be symbolic, since Lau is not running for any position at the moment.

No official response was given by either Netanyahu’s office or the office of minister Katz to the Channel 10 report.

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