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Israeli Health Minister Litzman resigns over Shabbat train work

26 November 2017

An ultra-Orthodox minister in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition government resigned on Sunday in a dispute over work on the Sabbath, the Jewish day of rest. They have traditionally acted as kingmakers in Israel's fractious coalition building and have in the past threatened to topple coalition governments by robbing them of their majority.

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

Sabbath begins at sundown on Friday and ends at sundown on Saturday.

"I will return to the government if the Sabbath desecration ceases", he said. Many restaurants, movie theaters, sporting events and national parks operate, and in secular bastions such as Tel Aviv even some corner stores and shopping centers are open.

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

Such work was carried out on Saturday, media said.

The resignation could spell trouble for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu if other Ultra-Orthodox Jewish politicians follow Litzman's lead. Railway and some other public works have occurred for years on the Sabbath.

The Health Minister was the first cabinet member from United Torah Judaism, but his post gave him collective responsibility for all government decisions, including those to violate the Sabbath, leading to his resignation over the train repairs. He said his coalition would not dissolve over the issue.

"The faction leaders made it clear that they have no intention of leaving the coalition, which will make it possible to formulate an optimal solution that keeps the Sabbath and also maintains the public's need for safe and continuous transportation", the statement noted.

Israeli Health Minister Litzman resigns over Shabbat train work