Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi on Saturday called a law to close stores on Shabbat, which he himself voted for, “stupid.”
Hanegbi, speaking to an audience at a cultural event in Modi’in, added: “I vote in favor of a lot of stupid laws.”
He added, however, the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had vowed that the law would not change the status quo.
On January 9, a controversial law granting the interior minister the power to close stores on Shabbat passed in the Knesset by a razor-thin majority, after the ruling coalition overcame internal divisions to muster the needed votes.
In Ashdod on Saturday, city inspectors began for the first time handing out fines to open businesses, in an enforcement push that began as the law was passed in the Knesset.
Also speaking about the law Saturday, Zionist Union party chairman Yoel Hasson said Israelis were “paying the price” for Netanyahu’s deal with Interior Minister Aryeh Deri of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party.
Events in Ashdod, he said, “are only the beginning” of efforts to shut down leisure activities on Shabbat.
Hanegbi, considered close to Netanyahu , also spoke out against legislation espoused by the premier to limit secret recordings of individuals.
“I oppose legislation against recordings. Recordings are an important tool for combating corruption, and there is no call to change the current law,” he said.
The current law defines recordings of conversations as legal so long as one of the parties recorded is aware of them. Netanyahu has in the past called for legislation requiring two-party consent, and recently has intensified his calls for legislative action to fight leaked recordings.
Hanegbi rejected Netanyahu’s use of the word “wiretaps” when describing, and criticizing, his wife’s recording.
“The recordings of Sara Netanyahu were legal, not wiretaps,” the minister said.
It is not the first time the leading Likud member has gone against the grain in his own party.
In September he met with a group called the New Likudniks, accused by close associates of Netanyahu of being leftists who are trying to take over the right-wing party from within, and told them “nobody can stop you.”
Hanegbi told a New Likudnik gathering in Tel Aviv, “This is how revolutions start. It starts with young people who are driven solely by energy, motivation and a willingness to give.”
Hanegbi said he was pleased to see “another ideological group” in the party, in addition to a group advocating for Jewish settlement in the West Bank.
Members of the group deny any intention of mounting a coup, saying their aim is to return the party — which has moved further to the right under Netanyahu — to return to its moderate nationalist but liberal roots.
The New Likudniks was founded in 2011 by leaders of the social justice protests, which that summer saw hundreds of thousands of Israelis take to the streets to demand government action on behalf of the middle class. The group’s stated agenda is to push what it says are middle-class interests from within Likud. It takes no view on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Party leaders have been trying to block New Likudniks from voting in Likud Party primaries.