Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Israel's Supreme Court OK's Sabbath Rail Line Repairs

Yesterday Israel's Supreme Court sitting as the High Court of Justice stepped into the government's political battle over whether planned repairs to the country's commuter rail lines can take place on Saturdays, the Jewish Sabbath.  As reported by JTA, last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled permits issued by Transportation Minister (and political rival) Yisrael Katz that allowed the work to proceed on the Sabbath.  Katz's permits led the ultra-Orthodox parties (part of Netanyahu's coalition government) to threaten to bring down the government. Netanyahu's intervention meant that the repair work did not pick up until Saturday night and this led to traffic jams and stranded commuters on Sunday (a workday in Israel).

Following this, a left-wing lawmaker (Meretz party) filed a petition with Israel's Supreme Court seeking to get the Sabbath repairs to move ahead.  As reported by The Forward and Arutz Sheva, yesterday the Court issued an interim order barring Netanyahu from stopping urgent Saturday work.  According to the Court, the Railway Authority has been issued a permit allowing Saturday work during the entire month of September, and only the Labor Minister has authority to revoke the permit.  A special Knesset session to discuss the matter has been postponed until September 19, so that Arab members of the Knesset who will be celebrating Eid Al-Adha the week before will be able to attend.