Israeli minister Bezalel Smotrich declared yesterday that he wished the state could follow Jewish law, reported the Times of Israel, reiterating controversial remarks made in June.
"We would all like the state to act according to the Torah and halacha," Smotrich said to a conference of rabbis in Jerusalem, "using the Hebrew term for Jewish law", the report noted.
Smotrich, currently Transportation Minister in the interim government between elections, added that the prospect was unfeasible for the present, because "there are other people who think differently and we need to get along with them".
The hard-right politician told conference delegates that in his role as head of the transportation ministry, "he would work to prevent construction, infrastructure and maintenance work on Shabbat, and defended the state's intervention in marriage and divorce".
"The state gets involved in our lives every day," he said, adding: "The question is whether it is important enough to the public interest to justify enforcement."
In June, Smotrich claimed that the Israeli justice system should adhere to Jewish law, as "in the days of King David", telling media that "the Jewish people is a special people that needs to live according to the Torah".
The minister's latest comments were slammed by Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman, who claimed that after the next elections "we'll establish a broad, liberal, national government, without you and without anyone who tries to force a halachic state on us".
Smotrich's United Right party claimed that the minister's remarks were being deliberately misrepresented in the media.
"Minister Smotrich spoke last night at the conference about his personal belief, and simultaneously emphasised that he cannot and isn't interested in forcing it on others," the statement said.
"Whoever listened to his remarks heard that he clearly said we must live here together and consider the entire population, out of respect rather than coercion."