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The Knesset Economics Committee called on Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz yesterday to postpone raising compulsory insurance rates for Israel's bikers.

The increase was supposed to come into force on November 1. Steinitz had already agreed to postpone imposition by two weeks.

All the members of the Economics Committee support the bikers' position against Yadin Antebi, the commissioner of insurance at the Finance Ministry, who argues in favor of a tariff hike.

A number of Knesset members who don't belong to the committee rode in on motorcycles to take part, including Carmel Shama, Nachman Shai, Yoel Hasson and Robert Tiviaev. Committee chairman Ophir Akonis (Likud) announced the establishment of a team to negotiate between the Knesset, on behalf of motorcycle riders, and the Finance Ministry, on behalf of the state coffers. The team will consist of Akonis himself, Knesset Finance Committee chairman Moshe Gafni, who has also called for leniency for the bikers, deputy finance minister Yitzhak Cohen and representatives of the bikers.

The team will meet as soon as possible with Steinitz in the hope of coming up with solutions. The bikers and Knesset members taking their side argue that higher rates are unaffordable. Most riders in Israel are from lower echelons of society, they say.

There is no argument that the aggregate cost of their healthcare following road accidents comes to more than they pay for insurance coverage. But the bikers argue that they spare the economy in other ways, such as reducing traffic congestion and wear and tear of the roadways.

Antebi rebutted yesterday that the increase may not be popular, and although it is unpalatable to the treasury too, it is a purely professional matter. He suggested a differential rate for bikers, depending on risk levels.