Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

1 Kislev 5764 - November 26, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Olmert Trying to Bypass Knesset and A-G on Shabbos Law
by Betzalel Kahn

Justice Minister Yosef Lapid and Trade, Commerce and Industry Minister Ehud Olmert must present the Knesset with all regulation changes in the Labor and Rest Hours Law, including changes in the level of fines for violating the law by working on Shabbos or opening a store on Shabbos, the Knesset's legal advisor, Anna Schneider, announced on Monday in response to a question posed by MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni. According to a written legal opinion Schneider issued, not only must the new changes regarding fines for violations of the Labor and Rest Hours Law be brought before the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, but in fact all changes in existing regulations must receive committee approval. Rabbi Gafni's pointed question was intended to prevent Olmert from bypassing the Knesset and approving the changes unilaterally.

In the government's latest move towards destroying Judaism in the State of Israel, Trade Minister Ehud Olmert is trying to sidestep a directive issued by the Attorney General several months ago to enforce the Work and Rest on Shabbat Law. To make enforcement ineffective, together with Justice Minister Tommy Lapid (Shinui) he drafted new regulations that reduce fines for violations by 80 percent. The Mafdal Party rushed to declare this the "last" coalition crisis before it leaves the government.

According to the amended regulations, which have not yet become official, the current NIS 5,000 ($1125) fine for a first violation would drop to just NIS 850 ($190), while the NIS 10,000 ($2,250) fine for a second violation would drop to NIS 1,000 ($225), declines of 80 and 90 percent, respectively.

Until now the fines deterred some store owners, although some continued operating on Shabbos, opting to risk paying the fine. Lowering the fines is expected to encourage many business owners to open shop on Shabbos. Olmert even sought to have his new regulations apply retroactively to violators with outstanding fines.

Chamber of Commerce Chairman Avraham Birnbaum said that Olmert and Lapid's new regulations are essentially intended to bypass Attorney General Eliakim Rubinstein's directive barring Olmert from instructing inspectors not to enforce the Work and Rest Law properly.

MK Shaul Yahalom (Mafdal) said, "This is a violation of the status quo and contradicts coalition agreements." He even made an idle threat that Mafdal would abandon the Likud- Shinui government saying, "One more crisis and the Mafdal is 100 percent out of the coalition."

It was at first thought that amending the regulations require the approval of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, which scheduled a meeting to discuss the issue. However, it was discovered that there is no requirement for Olmert to bring the changes to the Knesset committee for approval or discussion, and he notified the committee that he has no intention of bringing the regulations to the committee at any time. It appears that Olmert wanted to draw out the matter and amend the regulations without involving the Knesset.

Coalition Chairman MK Gidon Saar expressed his discomfort over the new regulations Olmert plans to institute, saying they would cause a breach in the status quo, which the coalition is obligated to abide by.


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