Menu JTA Search

Labor Government to Push for Bill Barring Import of Non-kosher Meat

Amid a welter of press criticism, the Labor-led government of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin has decided to introduce legislation that would bar the import of non-kosher meat.

Rabin apparently made the decision to secure the support of the fervently religious Shas party in a vote this week on the state budget.

The budget vote is considered crucial since it is viewed as tantamount to a vote of confidence in the government.

Rabin has been trying to lure the Shas party back into the governing coalition, which it left recently after Israel’s High Court of Justice ordered two senior members of the party to step down from their posts to face charges of financial misconduct.

The party’s departure left the government with only 56 seats in the 120-member Knesset, forcing it to rely on the tacit support of the Arab parties to maintain a parliamentary majority.

The prime minister plainly wants Shas to return to the coalition in order to have a “Jewish majority” that does not depend on the Arab votes. But there is no indication yet whether Shas will do so.

The head of Shas’ Knesset delegation, Shlomo Benizri, declared over the weekend that a law barring the import of non-kosher meat was a “condition” for Shas’ re-entry into the coalition.

Rabin’s decision to enact the legislation came after the High Court ruled last Friday that there was no legal justification for administrative regulations the government had instituted to bar the import of non-kosher meat.

The High Court decision, written by Justice Theodor Orr and adopted unanimously by a panel of three justices, held that the government’s desire to assuage Shas’ religious concerns about the import of non-kosher meat was not relevant to the legality of the administrative ban.

A WAY TO CIRCUMVENT COURT DECISION

The new legislation that the government intends to introduce is a way of circumventing the court decision.

The issue arose because the government is privatizing the meat import business, which it until now has controlled and kept entirely kosher. The changeover to privatization opens the possibility that non-kosher meat could be imported.

Because a sizable percentage of the Israeli public has no interest in restricting the import of non-kosher meat, the Israeli press is referring to the government’s decision to act on Shas’ request for legislation as “blackmail” and “bribery.”

The respected daily Ma’ariv headlined an editorial on the subject of the meat imports “Blackmailers’ Field Day.”

The leading liberal daily Ha’aretz, in its editorial Monday, urged the government not to proceed with the planned legislation.

While technically valid, the paper said, such legislation would violate the spirit of the court judgment, which was grounded in the principles of individual freedoms.

But political commentators said that should the legislation come up for a vote in the Knesset, neither of the major parties would risk the lasting hostility of the pivotal religious parties by voting against it.

NEXT STORY