Israels Supreme Court steps into turbine transport troubles

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JERUSALEM — Israel's Supreme Court has stepped into the brouhaha over a 250-ton turbine part by preventing its transport on Shabbat.

Last Friday, the justices rejected the Friedenson Transport Company's request to continue the weekend transports until the court hears its petition against the attorney general, the police and a cabinet minister.

Friedenson wanted to transport a section of the turbine from the TAAS-Israel Industries plant in Ramat Hasharon to the new Rutenberg power station on Friday night and Saturday without Shabbat work permits — as it had done the previous week.

Friedenson submitted its petition Thursday of last week, demanding that Labor and Social Affairs Minister Eli Yishai grant Shabbat work permits to Jewish employees involved in the transport of the turbine.

It also demanded that the police escort the transport without Shabbat work permits and that the attorney-general withdraw his directive to the police not to escort the transport until its workers received Shabbat work permits.

The police have given Friedenson a permit to transport the turbine parts, ordering the transport to occur only on Friday night and Saturday for safety reasons. Last week, State Attorney Edna Arbel warned the ministry that if it refused to grant the Shabbat work permits to the company, the State Attorney's Office would not be able to defend it in court.

At first, it looked as if the court might grant Friedenson's request.

Deputy Supreme Court President Shlomo Levin and Justices Theodore Or and Dorit Beinisch blasted the State Attorney's Office and Yishai for not replying to the petition as the court had requested the previous day.

In his written reply to the court, Uzi Fogelman, head of the Supreme Court Petition Section in the State Attorney's Office, said that Yishai had received the Shabbat work permit request from Friedenson only the previous day and needed a week to consider it. Yishai himself did not submit an affidavit as required.

"All you are trying to do is to stall for a week," Or said. "It is obvious that this is an urgent matter."

However, the judges also criticized Friedenson attorney Yehiel Guttman for taking so long to submit the request.

What seemed to tip the scales, however, was the fact that Guttman could not estimate the damages Friedenson would suffer from the delay of the transport by a week. As a result, the judges decided not to grant its request for an interim injunction.

The court scheduled the hearing for two days ago, giving Friedenson until Sunday to add more details to its petition. The court especially wanted him to include an estimate of the damages caused by the transport delay and ordered the state to submit its full reply by Tuesday.