MKs Line Up With Bikers

Israel's motorcyclists have found an ally in MK Moshe Gafni, chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee. As a result, the Finance Ministry may have to postpone raising motorcycle insurance premiums by a month.

Gafni yesterday threatened to stonewall any requests by the Finance Ministry's capital markets department unless it agrees to the delay.

Capital markets commissioner Yadin Antebi, who heads that department, argues that cars are subsidizing motorcycle insurance rates: Motorcycles are involved in a disproportionate number of accidents, which generally involve more serious injuries, says the commissioner, and their insurance rates don't cover the full costs.

"The Finance Ministry went much too far in raising motorcycle insurance rates," Gafni said at a Finance Committee meeting that was attended by dozens of bikers. "It is obtuse, because the people riding two-wheeled vehicles are not society's richest.

"Driving motorcycles reduces traffic congestion," Gafni added. "Give us a month to hold a public discussion about the increase. If you refuse our demand, we will each go our own way," he said, addressing the treasury.

The bikers have managed to assemble a rainbow coalition of support. Yesterday's session was attended by a number of Knesset members who are not on the Finance Committee, including Yoel Hasson, Dov Khenin and Arie Bibi.

MK Haim Oron told the committee that the higher rates are being imposed on people who can't afford them.

"Motorcycle insurance for a student equals one year's tuition," he said. "Slow down and think about it. Then we can submit a balanced proposal."

Hasson was the one who proposed sanctions against the treasury unless it agrees to postpone the move. Meanwhile, MK Carmel Shama and Hasson are collaborating on a bill that would make any increase in motorcycle insurance contingent on Finance Committee approval.