Politics in Israel is as ridiculous and stupid as it is in every other country. The current political crisis that is affecting the Government Coalition and is the main news story is the clash over work on Shabbat. Naturally this is opposed by the religious parties that are in the Government Coalition, namely Shas and United Torah Judaism.
Currently in Israel there are two major civil engineering projects going on, namely the building of the fast train connection from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and the construction of the Tel Aviv Metro system. Over the past week work was proceeding on the station at the major Hashalom junction in Tel Aviv. Apparently the Transportation Minister Yaakov Katz, a member of Likud, had given an undertaking to UTJ that work on this project would not be carried out on Shabbat. But, the work was crucial and it was decided by the engineers and the police that the disruption to traffic would be too great if the work was carried out on a weekday. So they advised the Transportation Minister that it would be safer and cause less disruption if the work proceeded on Shabbat and he accepted their recommendation.
Now UTJ have accused Katz of lying to them and are threatening to bolt the Coalition and cause the Government to fall if he does not make an agreement that no more work will be done on Shabbat. But, Katz has replied that he had to accept the recommendation of the engineers and the police that it would be safer for the work to proceed on Shabbat in order to protect the lives of the public. This is called in Hebrew “pikuah nefesh,” to save a soul, anything is permitted including breaking the Shabbat. In effect, Katz is calling their bluff.
PM Netanyahu is in the middle of this, trying to placate the UTJ, while at the same time, the right wing party Yisrael Beitanu of Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, also a Coalition member, has called for work to continue on Shabbat. Can this ridiculous crisis cause the Netanyahu Government to fall? Not likely. None of the parties want to risk an election at this time. In a modern state religion has to take second place to the necessities of modern life. Hopefully UTJ will have to climb down from the branch they have stranded themselves on.