Likud Seeks Lawmaker's Ouster for Defying Party on Shabbat Bill

MK Sharren Haskel, who announced that she will not vote for a bill barring stores from opening on Shabbat, says the party is engaging in 'bullying conduct'

Likud lawmaker Sharren Haskel, 2017.
Tomer Appelbaum

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and coalition whip David Amsalem are seeking to revoke Likud lawmaker Sharren Haskel’s membership in the party over her declaration that she does not intend to vote for a bill blocking businesses from operating on Shabbat.

The Likud and Amsalem filed a petition to remove Haskel from the party with the Likud’s supreme judicial tribunal on Sunday.

The bill in question would empower the interior minister to veto future municipal bylaws allowing some businesses to open on Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest. If Haskel votes against the bill, she would be bucking a Likud Knesset faction decision requiring its members to vote in favor.

Haskel said the move in filing the petition “crossed a red line” in what she called Amsalem’s “bullying conduct.” In opposing the bill, she claimed that she was being true to the liberal values of the party’s Revisionist father, Ze’ev Jabotinsky, and the late Prime Minister Menachem Begin – “and not the whim of this or that cabinet minister.” Haskel said the bill would widen the divide between secular and ultra-Orthodox Israelis and force religion on the secular public.

Nonetheless, the party said Haskel’s announced intention to vote against the bill provides support for Likud’s parliamentary opponents and violates the Knesset faction’s decision. That justifies the cancellation of her party membership, the petition states. Amsalem said Haskel’s vote would also undermine the stability of the coalition government and noted that under Israel’s electoral system, Haskel was also not directly elected to the Knesset but became a lawmaker as part of the party’s slate.

The Knesset voted 59-54 in support of the bill last month on an initial vote. In order to pass, the bill needs to be supported by a majority in two additional votes. Tel Aviv, which has already passed bylaws allowing a limited number of groceries and convenience stores to remain open on Shabbat, would not be affected by the law if it passes.

Interior Minister Arye Dery, of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, had threatened to resign if the bill did not gain the Knesset’s support on the first vote. Following a discussion with Netanyahu, Haskel abstained from voting on the bill during the initial vote.