Editorial

Israel's Transportation Minister vs. the Public

Extended infrastructure work must be carried out on Saturday. We must not let a political wheeler-dealer tend to his position in Likud at the expense of the Israeli public’s welfare

An artist's rendering of the Yehudit Bridge.
NCArchitects

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz didn’t wait even one day. Immediately after two ultra-Orthodox junior MKs protested building “Yehudit Bridge” on the Sabbath, he issued an order to the Netivei Ayalon company to suspend work on the bridge on Saturday and “submit alternatives for building it on weekdays.”

Even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it was “unreasonable to block the Ayalon Highway during the week.”

Katz took this outrageous step because he sees himself running for the Likud leadership in the post-Netanyahu era and believes he needs the ultra-Orthodox parties at his side. He preferred his personal interests to the public good, and Israelis will be forced to wait in massive traffic jams if the work on the bridge over the Ayalon Highway takes place during the week. Even on regular days the highway is clogged most of the time.

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Katz is one of the architects of the greatest civilian fiasco ever to take place here – the fiasco of public transportation. Not only in the Tel Aviv metropolis, but countrywide. Egged and Dan and the rest of the bus companies do not provide adequate service, nor does the train.

Katz was the one who pushed to take the light rail project in Tel Aviv out of the hands of an efficient private group, which would have had it operating already last year, and give it to a government agency, NTA, which got the project stuck for years, wasting billions. This is how he forced the public to buy more private cars, which create the long, exhausting traffic jams.

Katz also fought against letting Uber into Israel, a move that would have reduced taxi fares. But as in the case of the bridge, political considerations were more important to Katz: The taxi drivers wield considerable power in the Likud central committee. They pressured and Katz folded.

The transportation minister also objects to any initiative to operate public transportation on weekends, even though there’s hardly another country in the world without public transportation seven days a week. This is a serious blow to the poor and needy, whom Katz is denying freedom of movement on the Sabbath and on holidays.

Extended infrastructure work, which are liable to paralyze the Dan region, must be carried out on Saturday. We must not let a political wheeler-dealer tend to his position in Likud at the expense of the Israeli public’s welfare.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.