Breaking Shabbat law could lead to fines or jail for Israelis


A new Shabbat law is causing strife in the Israeli coalition.

The law, proposed by Likud's deputy interior minister Yaron Mazuz, will set much sterner fines for businesses which open on Shabbat.

Under the current labour laws, shops are not allowed to open on Shabbat, however, the enforcement is under the discretion of local authorities, most of which traditionally ignore those businesses which do choose to open.

The new law would make enforcement the responsibility of the interior ministry and fines for offenders could be as high as three times their profit on Shabbat - or even prison time.

Mr Mazuz insists that his main motivation is helping small businesses which are closed on Shabbat compete with large shopping centres and retail chains, however, the law's opponents accuse him of pandering to strictly Orthodox party members.

Kulanu, the centrist party which is a member of the coalition, is opposed to the law and succeeded in removing it from the agenda of the cabinet's legislative committee on Sunday. It is now scheduled to be voted on in two weeks.

The religious parties in the coalition are expected to support the law and Likud's position is still unclear.

Kulanu MK Rachel Azaria, leading opposition to the proposal, said: "Before changes are made, we need to define what an Israeli Shabbat means today and it can't only be an Orthodox definition."

One proposal suggested by opposition parties is a period of dialogue followed by a new law which sets guidelines for which businesses will be allowed to remain open on Shabbat, mainly places of entertainment and restaurants and also some public transport.

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