Israeli minister quits over Sabbath row | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, November 27, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, November 27, 2017

Israeli minister quits over Sabbath row

 An ultra-Orthodox minister in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition government quit yesterday in a dispute over work on the Sabbath, the Jewish day of rest.

But a spokesman for health minister Yaakov Litzman told AFP that his United Torah Judaism party would remain in the ruling alliance "at this stage", preserving Netanyahu's slim parliamentary majority at least for the time being.

Similar disputes have caused Israeli coalition crises in the past, but Netanyahu was reportedly seeking ways to prevent further fallout.

"I resign from my cabinet position as health minister," Litzman wrote in his resignation letter, a copy of which was sent to AFP.

"The decision follows the public works conducted on the Sabbath by Israel Railways," he added.

"I cannot bear ministerial responsibility for the severe harm to one of the eternal values of the Jewish people, which is the Sabbath."

Netanyahu, head of the right-wing Likud party, said he regretted Litzman's decision and signalled he wanted to avoid calling for fresh elections.

"The national government headed by the Likud is the best for the state of Israel," he said at the start of a cabinet meeting.

"I think that every member of the coalition has an interest in its continued existence; I don't think, I know."

Litzman will retain his seat in parliament.

The dispute is over railway maintenance work, which is less disruptive to travellers on the Sabbath, when no trains run.

The national rail company says some Sabbath work is necessary in the interests of public safety and to avoid congestion on roads.

Litzman says that is untrue.

"To my regret Israel Railways has lately made the Sabbath day national maintenance day," he told Israeli army radio after handing in his resignation to the cabinet secretary.

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