The Associated Press reports: Israeli commuters began their work week Sunday with massive traffic jams and a cancellation of train service along one of the country’s busiest routes following a religious and political scuffle that had threatened to shake the governing coalition.
The crisis erupted over the weekend after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, under pressure from ultra-Orthodox coalition partners, made an 11th-hour decision to halt routine railway repairs scheduled on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath.
Orthodox Jewish law forbids work on the Sabbath, and a religious party in the coalition had threatened to quit the government unless Netanyahu halted the repairs.
Netanyahu’s transport minister, Yisrael Katz, canceled a key train route on the Tel Aviv – Haifa line Sunday because of the delayed repairs. The government dispatched extra buses for some 90,000 affected commuters.
The resulting traffic jams offered a physical illustration of the outsized power the leadership of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish minority wields in Israeli politics.
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish politicians offer Netanyahu support to stabilize his coalition, while the government carves out large budgets for ultra-Orthodox schools and seminaries. Recent reforms aimed at forcing religious youths to enlist for army service, which is compulsory for most other Jewish Israelis, have been scrapped. [Continue reading…]