Israel's motorcycle lobby is subverting democracy
The motorbike owners, who make up a mere 4.4 percent of Israel's vehicle owners, have become an especially powerful lobby over the past few years.
The registration of thousands of motorcyclists as Likud members, reported by Avi Bar-Eli in Monday's TheMarker, raises two fundamental issues. The first concerns the relation between registering as a party member on the one hand, and voting patterns and ideological affiliation to this party on the other. The second concerns individual Knesset members who control an interested group, after the group's failure to advance its interests by conventional democratic means.
The motorbike owners, who make up a mere 4.4 percent of Israel's vehicle owners, have become an especially powerful lobby over the past few years. Due to the drop in state revenues from the taxation on motorbikes and motor scooters and their high accident rate, the cabinet has tried to raise their insurance rates several times. When the bikers' resistance and protests failed to produce the desired results, 3,000 bikers registered as Likud members (since 2008 ). Consequently, the drivers' community will have to subsidize the bikers by half a billion shekels annually.
The bikers argue that they are saving the public about a billion shekels a year by reducing traffic congestion, preventing the loss of work hours and lessening air pollution. They also say the high insurance rates cause many youngsters, who can't afford it, to operate two-wheel vehicles without any insurance at all.
Maybe they're right. Maybe not. One way or another, the cabinet is supposed to examine these arguments as part of the overall transportation and economic aspects of two-wheeled vehicles. Instead, they have become a political device in the hands of a pressure group headed by two Likud MKs. The two, Carmel Shama-Hacohen and Ofir Akunis, signed bikers up as party members and persuaded the transport minister to give them benefits.
Their activity exposes an alarming situation, which severs the affiliation between joining a party and the actual vote on election day. The bikers' joining the party serves as a means of pressure, while Likud and its MKs are subjecting legislation to the caprices of interested persons. The cabinet, whose incompetence has enabled this activity, must take responsibility back into its own hands and set a clear, carefully-considered policy.