The leaders of the battle by smaller groceries and other businesses in Tel Aviv against their larger competitors seeking to stay open on Shabbat on Tuesday demanded that MK Meir Sheetrit recuse himself from voting or making public statements on the subject. This, because Sheetrit’s wife is a PR consultant for one of the large chains that wants to stay open on Friday night and Saturday.
On Sunday Sheetrit accused Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar of having negotiated a political deal with ultra-Orthodox parties in the Knesset. The deal, he said, was for Sa’ar to order the Shabbat closure of all Tel Aviv supermarkets in exchange for the parties’ support for Reuven Rivlin in the June 10 presidential election in the Knesset, rather than Sheetrit.
In a letter Tuesday, attorney Ivri Feingold, who represents the small-business owners, demanded that Sheetrit refrain from taking part in Knesset votes and debates involving the opening of the larger chains, because a firm belonging to his wife, Ruthie Sheetrit, is involved in promoting the AM:PM chain of convenience stores, whose branches are open on Saturday.
“A well-funded and powerful media campaign has been under way for the past few days by some of the Tel Aviv supermarket chains, representing their illegal activities and their desire for an additional day of commerce on the weekend as an ideological struggle for the ‘secular nature’ of the city of Tel Aviv (while hiding and blurring the real interests of the chains and the illegality of their actions),” the letter stated.
The largest of the chains involved in the campaign, Feingold wrote, is AM:PM, part of the Dor Alon group of companies. “As my clients know, and certainly you know as well, the director of the campaign for AM:PM is Sheetrit Media Group, owned and operated by your wife.”
Feingold notes that Sheetrit Media Group presents AM:PM as one of its key clients and that to his clients’ knowledge, the owners of AM:PM and Sheetrit’s wife have close business ties, which could be construed as a conflict of interest when it comes to municipal bylaws and the issue of business hours in Tel Aviv. The ostensible conflict of interests “grows stronger in light of the complete compatibility between your statements to the media and the messages of the campaign managed by AM:PM and Sheetrit Media Group and in light of the lack of proper disclosure regarding your personal association to the matter.”
Feingold demanded that Sheetrit accompany any future public statements on the issue with proper disclosure of his wife’s connection to the issue.
Sheetrit claimed Sunday that his Likud colleagues had informed him of Sa’ar’s meeting with the ultra-Orthodox parties over the Sabbath closures of the Tel Aviv stores, and that in the break between the first and second votes for president, Sa’ar met with members of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party. If there had been no break, he said, “the outcome would have been entirely different.” Sheetrit also said that he was “not acting in the name of this or that businessman on the issue of opening or closing the supermarkets on Shabbat in Tel Aviv.”
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