Otniel Schneller
Otniel Schneller. Photo by Michal Fattal
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The drinking habits of those from the former Soviet Union has led to a significant increase in the number of traffic accidents in Israel, MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima ) charged on Tuesday.

"I recall the large immigration from the Soviet Union and its effect in terms of drinking and alcohol," Schneller, who served for a decade as the director of the National Road Safety Authority, told the Knesset plenum on Tuesday.

"This was our best wave of immigration, I welcome them, but they brought their drinking habits over from there," he added.

Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat asked Schneller to retract his statement, but he continued speaking, in an effort to clarify his position. "The problem of drunk driving did not exist in Israel during those years," he added. "It is one of the symptoms of this welcome immigration."

"I am not accusing them of anything, only pointing out something from a professional point of view," he said.

Livnat, of the Likud party, took the floor after Schneller and criticized the Kadima MK's statements.

"You noted that they brought a culture of drinking with them, which resulted in drunk driving and an increase in traffic accidents. But I do not understand what you are saying," she said. "It is unfortunate that you are saying such things. There has been a very dramatic increase in the consumption of alcohol and other drugs. Did they also bring these drugs with them from the former Soviet Union?"

After some discussion, Schneller clarified that "I had spoken about the differences of culture in a changing Israeli society and about the need to invest resources in the fight against traffic accidents. Back then, there were not any accidents due to the consumption of alcohol."

"I linked the rise in the amount of accidents to the immigration from Europe," he continued. "Today, of course, everyone drinks. To say that I'd said the Russians were responsible for the rise in the number of traffic accidents is entirely wrong - a clear distortion of my statements. This is the logic of politicians and not the truth."