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Ultra-Orthodox threaten Netanyahu’s coalition over Sabbath crisis

Contrary to past Sabbath crises, this time Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is refusing to cede to ultra-Orthodox demands.
An ultra-Orthodox Jew takes part in a protest against the opening of a road on the Sabbath, near a religious neighbourhood in Jerusalem June 23, 2012. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun (JERUSALEM - Tags: RELIGION CIVIL UNREST) - RTR3427P

For several days now, ultra-Orthodox Israelis are in an uproar over a Supreme Court decision to allow the opening of grocery stores and entertainment hubs on the Sabbath. The chairman of the Knesset's Finance Committee, Moshe Gafni of the ultra-Orthodox Yahadut HaTorah party, sounded especially pugnacious in a radio interview he gave to Reshet Bet on May 4 when he said, "The issue of the Sabbath is a real political crisis."

While Gafni’s statement was sharp in tone, he could not hide what was obvious for everyone in the political sphere, including Gafni himself: that the ultra-Orthodox do not really want to break up the coalition, especially because Yair Lapid, the chairman of the opposition Yesh Atid party, is lurking right around the corner. Ever since Lapid promoted the drafting of the ultra-Orthodox into the military during the third Netanyahu government, they consider him a political enemy. According to the most recent polls, Lapid will be running against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the next election.

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