Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli appears to be convinced that her performance is judged by her social media exposure. She believes all she has to do is say she’s in favor of public transportation on Shabbat to be remembered among her voters for acting for the secular public, even if trains and buses turn off their engines on Friday.
Had Michaeli wanted to advance public transportation on Shabbat, she could have operated dozens of transportation routes in the central area, which have a license to run on the days of rest. In Tel Aviv alone there are eight such routes. All she had to do is give the order.
But Michaeli promised her coalition partners not to carry out revolutions with the Sabbath. So what to do with the voters? You make a noise about marginal projects. If it doesn’t work, no big deal. The post has already been uploaded and the tweet has received countless likes.
This is how Michaeli tried to promote an amendment initially drafted as a lone clause in a broad effort to encourage public transportation to industrial zones. The amendment would enable municipalities that operate private transportation on Shabbat to charge fees; today the law forbids it. The transportation that operates on Saturdays, according to Michaeli, will not be subsidized, will not be supervised and may render the state vulnerable to giant lawsuits by route operators, because it will enable operating private routes on weekdays as well.
Michaeli submitted the amendment for the Justice Ministry’s approval, but the ministry is balking, and for good reason. But what does it matter, the Instagram post is a triumph.
When Michaeli saw that the amendment isn’t advancing, she jumped on a new bandwagon: the cable route in Haifa, where there’s already public transportation on Shabbat. Michaeli announced that the Rachbalit, one of the cable car lines, will operate on Shabbat. But again – announcements are not the same as actions. The new line will soon operate only on weekdays.
Michaeli says this is because of the objection of the ultra-Orthodox officials in Haifa municipality. When will it operate on Shabbat as well? Nobody knows.
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Michaeli understands that transportation on Shabbat in Israel cannot be accomplished without a revolution that could lead to breaking up the government. If she has the power and courage to do so, fine. If not, she ought to stop spreading a smokescreen while leaving the public with great expectations but no public transportation on the weekend.
The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.