The Transportation Minister Is Driving Israelis Crazy

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Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, right, and Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav launch Haifa's Metronit. Credit: Zvi Roger / Haifa Municipality

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz has bluntly rejected a protest on his Facebook page over the lack of public transportation on the Sabbath and holidays. Katz claimed that the protester was a left-winger; he even called the protest hypocritical.

The minister cited the results of last month’s election as a reason to stifle discussion on the subject; he told the protester to ask Zionist Union chief Isaac Herzog “to commit to stay out of a government that doesn’t change the status quo. The show of hypocrisy by you and your friends on the left, who are drawing salaries from nonprofit groups ‘for public transportation,’ was proved in the election. It received the proper response at the ballot box.”

But the minister offered no proof for his take on the political affiliation of the person posting the comment. And don’t forget that some leaders of the public-transportation protest are members of the Likud Central Committee.

First, Katz is remiss in his role as a minister by ignoring the public-transportation woes that cross ethnic and political divides. Even if Katz felt obligated to maintain the historical agreements with the religious community, this shouldn’t prevent a reopening of the discussion on archaic clauses about public transportation. It shouldn’t thwart the possibility for greater flexibility; after all, Israel’s public transportation can clearly be seen as lagging the rest of the economy.

Second, Katz is remiss in his role as a cabinet member in that he attributes hidden motives to a persons’s expression of distress. He thus made a political issue out of a legitimate discussion on issues that pertain to his ministry.

Third, and worst of all, Katz is remiss in his capacity as an MK in that he creates a link between fulfilment of his public role and the political affiliation of a recipient of his services.

Only a few days ago Katz took part in the swearing-in ceremony at the Knesset and pledged allegiance to the state, not just to the people who hold the political opinions he does. In his remarks, Katz also besmirched voters on the left, a approach that was common on the right during the election campaign. It’s an approach that gives license to hate and delegitimization.

Therefore Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein should look into whether Katz abused his office when he cited a political reason for rejecting a query that pertained to his ministry. Even before Weinstein submits his conclusions, Katz should do his job honestly and ensure that there is public transportation on the Sabbath and holidays where the population is not Orthodox.

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