After attempts to reach a compromise over railway maintenance works on Shabbat have failed, Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism) on Sunday morning submitted his letter of resignation to Cabinet Secretary Tzahi Braverman. Litzman cited the railway works that had taken place last Shabbat, despite his demand to stop them immediately, as the reason he was instructed to quit by the Rebbe of Gur, Rabbi Yaakov Alter, whom he represents in his party.
As soon as the letter of resignation had been submitted, Litzman began a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the PM’s office. Litzman’s resignation will take effect in 48 hours.
According to Walla, Litzman’s circle accused the Likud of not recognizing the approaching crisis, saying that “the minister conveyed messages and they did not take him seriously.” And by “them” they meant Coalition Chairman MK David Bitan (Likud).
But Bitan rejected the accusations, saying he passed on all of Litzman’s messages, and “it is not within my authority as chairman of the coalition to deal with this. Those who needed to – took the messages very seriously.”
At the same time, it should be noted that, unlike similar moves by non-Haredi coalition partners, the Health Minister’s resignation will not entail the United Torah Judaism’s leaving the Netanyahu coalition. It merely means that Litzman does not wish to be associated, as cabinet member, with government-sponsored works on Shabbat.
To begin with, Litzman preferred to remain only deputy health minister, which allowed him to run the ministry without being responsible for anything else the coalition government was doing which contradicted his religious principles. But in August 2015, shortly after Netanyahu’s current government had been sworn in, Israel’s High Court of Justice ruled that Litzman had 60 days to either resign from his deputy’s post or assume the role of minister.