Saturday’s all right for fighting (but not shopping)
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Saturday’s all right for fighting (but not shopping)

Papers report that with a law shutting mini-markets looming, cities are rebelling, though it's not clear they can stop the ultra-Orthodox effort

An ultra orthodox Jewish man studies Torah, as he shops for vegetables at a supermarket in Gush Etzion, on July 27, 2017. (Gershon Elinson/FLASH90)
An ultra orthodox Jewish man studies Torah, as he shops for vegetables at a supermarket in Gush Etzion, on July 27, 2017. (Gershon Elinson/FLASH90)

The divide between the secular (or at least pluralistic) parts of society and ultra-Orthodox is front and center on Tuesday morning, as papers look at Haredi legislative efforts to clamp down on activities during the Jewish day of rest and the fight to keep the Friday night (and Saturday) lights on.

That fight right now is being led by cities passing bylaws attempting to pre-empt new legislation that would give the ultra-Orthodox interior minister control over whether mini-markets can remain open on Shabbat, earning a ”battle over Shabbat” tag in Yedioth Ahronoth.

The tabloid calls the cities’ efforts a “race against time” and reports that no fewer than six city councils, all except Modiin adjacent to Tel Aviv, are “rebelling” and working on thwarting the evil decree. While the law’s backers say it is designed protect the status quo, the cities hijack the term and argue that keeping the status quo means leaving the stores open on Shabbat.

“I plan on doing everything I can do protect the status quo in the city,” Holon Mayor Moti Sasson is quoted saying. “What is will be,” Modiin’s verbose Haim Bibas says.

Six may be just the start. Haaretz reports that 58 cities recently signed on to a letter against the law. “This will severely harm Israeli citizens and drastically change the status quo regarding commercial activity on Shabbat in towns throughout the country,” the paper reports the letter read.

In Israel Hayom, though, things are going just swimmingly for the ultra-Orthodox, with former health minister Yaakov Litzman possibly finding a way to return to the ministry as a deputy minister, which is what he was until a court decision forced him to assume the full ministerial role.

“Israel Hayom has learned that on Sunday the government will consider a bill that seeks to change the basic law on the government and allow Litzman to become a deputy minister,” the paper reports. “The law will allow the government to bypass the High Court, which said the law forbids appointing a deputy minister with the standing of a minister.”

Why does he not want to be a full minister? Columnist Yehuda Shlezinger explains that despite the fact the ultra-Orthodox are getting their way, the corner that Litzman comes from is willing to go to any length to keep from being seen as a full collaborator with the non-theocratic government.

Health Minister Yaakov Litzman attends a committee meeting at the Knesset, November 14, 2017. (Flash90)

“There’s a whole ultra-Orthodox world that just sits in study halls, in the middle of Haredi cities, far from the eyes of the media, and keeps to itself and its pious ways. This world believes that mixing in with the secular world will dilute their Harediness and are not interested in it,” he writes. “Litzman is proof that with even with all the best intentions, there are limits to Haredi assimilation — and it is impossible to cross them.”

The cities racing for time got a bit of help by a marathon filibuster session that kicked off overnight against another piece of less-than-popular legislation: the police recommendations bill.

Haaretz leads off with that story and notes that lawmakers are wary of the opposition suddenly calling it quits beforte the 45-hour time limit on filibusters is up.

“Ministers and coalition MKs have been told to be prepared for any opposition maneuvers and to stay away no longer than half an hour from the Knesset until the vote takes place. The opposition is permitted to halt its speeches any time it chooses and then give the government an hour’s notice before starting the vote,” the paper reports.

Yedioth inserts some drama into the committee discussion that preceded the filibuster, reporting that MK David Bitan, the former coalition chief who championed the police bill, got some bad news during the meeting: his alleged partner in crime Moshe Yosef will admit wrongdoing in a corruption investigation against him though he will not become a state’s witness.

Likud MK David Bitan leaving the “Lahav 433” unit of the Israel Police on December 10, 2017, after being questioned in a wide corruption scandal. (Roy Alima/Flash90)

“Bitan first heard about the dramatic development in his case, which were first reported by Channel 2, while in the middle of a discussion of the police bill,” the paper reports. “Bitan was shocked, despite the fact he knew that this could happen, since to hear it did happen is tough,” a source close to the lawmaker tells the paper.

While Yedioth reports that Yosef’s testimony is expected to bring down Bitan no matter what he’s called, Israel Hayom plays up the fact that he won’t be state’s witness, noting that while state’s witnesses are expected to provide evidence backing what they testify, a regular witness only “has to provide any information he has on any wrongdoing he carried out and the testimony cannot be used against him but only others.”

That subtle contrast may not make any difference, just as the subtlety that the Islamic State affiliate in the Sinai isn’t actually part of the group but just an offshoot doesn’t make them any less bloodthirsty. In fact, according to Amos Harel in Haaretz, they have become the most deadly group in the Middle East.

Harel writes that the group’s recent successes have created problems for Egypt and potentially Israel.

“The series of deadly ISIS attacks will apparently require Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi to focus his security forces’ retaliation efforts on the organization’s strongholds. Sissi has already made several dismissals among the senior army brass and had already replaced the chief of general staff a few months ago due to previous failures. But the Egyptian regime’s problem is not confined to Sinai. The success of the jihadists in Sinai is inspiring radical operatives in Egypt itself. Egypt’s borders with Sudan and Libya are fairly porous and there are massive amounts of weapons being smuggled to terror groups within Egypt,” he writes. “The Israeli security establishment is preparing for the possibility of cross-border raids like the attacks on the mosque and the Egyptian military camp, in which there could be an attempt to breach the border fence and reach a nearby town, taking advantage of the knowledge and experience accumulated by Wilayat Sinai in recent years.”

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