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Aguda Israel Drafts Demands

Aguda Israel today drafted some of its demands for a new coalition

agreement with Premier Menachem Begin’s Likud, and these are reported to include cessation of public transport in Haifa on Shabbat — long a thorny issue between the religious and secular in Israel.

Whereas buses do not run elsewhere on Shabbat, they have always run in Haifa and the tradition is considered part of the religious “status quo.” Haifa’s Mayor Yisrael Gurel warned today that if the status quo in his city was tampered with, the whole delicate balance would disintegrate. There could well be street violence if tempers flared over religious-secular controvery the mayor warned.

If the buses were stopped, secular elements in the city would seek to strike back by opening cinemas and theaters on Shabbat, and organizing public transport by trucks and bus-rental companies, Gurel cautioned.

OTHER DEMANDS OUTLINED

Other religious demands expected to be made by Aguda and by the National Religious Party in the coalition negotiations include:

Amending the “Who is a Jew” provision in the Law of Return so that it defines a Jew as a person born of a Jewish mother or converted according to Halacha. (These last three words are not part of the law at present, and they would imply non-recognition of Reform and Conservative conversion in the U.S.).

Tightening legislation against the marketing of pork in predominantly Jewish areas (this was agreed in the 1977 coalition pact, but legislation on the subject was never finalized).

Tightening legislation banning Shabbat employment (only defense installations and other vital industries would remain free of Shabbat closure orders).

Aguda is also said to want a repeal of the “Bader-Ofer Law,” the complicated legislation brought in by the two big parties in the mid-1970s whereby “leftover votes” in an election are allocated to all the parties in proportion to their strength. Aguda says this law robbed it of its fifth seat in this election.

By David Landau

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