Knesset to Hold Emergency Debate on Shabbat Work – Next Week

Speaker fails to convene legislature immediately, despite opposition’s 50 signatures, ‘for Netanyahu’s benefit.’

A crowd demonstrates against the halt of rail works in Haifa on Saturday, September 3, 2016.
Rami Shllush

The Knesset will hold an emergency session on the Shabbat work at Israel Railways only next week. Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein decided not to hold the debate this week, despite the opposition mustering the 50 signatures it needed to convene the legislature even though it is in recess.

Opposition MKs accused Edelstein of foot-dragging to appease Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Edelstein’s office responded Monday that the Knesset regulations require a recess session initiated under such circumstances to be convened “within a reasonable time,” but do not specify a time frame.

“A recess session has never been convened in a day,” the statement said. “The signatures were obtained only yesterday afternoon.” But Edelstein’s office also said that because of the criticism they were trying to set a different date for the debate.

A debate about the issue of employing Jews on the Jewish Sabbath had recently been scheduled for the first day of Id al-Adha (the feast of the sacrifice), which is next week, meaning that Muslim MK could not participate. MK Esawi Freige (Meretz) criticized Edelstein, saying, “The Knesset speaker knew there would be an immediate request for a postponement from the Arab MKs and thus deliberately scheduled the date so the session would be cancelled and spare the prime minister a debate on his failures.”

MK Ahmad Tibi (Joint Arab List) called on Edelstein to bring the debate forward. “Those who create a crisis over Shabbat aren’t supposed to hold a debate specifically on Id al-Adha,” he said.

Edelstein’s associates responded that the request by the Arab MKs was being dealt with.

This is not the first time that Edelstein has been accused of putting off debates for Netanyahu’s benefit. In May Edelstein and Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit blocked a debate the opposition wanted to conduct on the draft of the state comptroller’s report on the security cabinet’s conduct during Operation Protective Edge in 2014. The two nixed the debate on grounds that leaking the report before its publication is against the law.