Hit-and-run Yisrael Katz-style
Op-ed: If Minister Katz was truly alert to the suffering of the 'general public' on the weekend, he would've ordered the immediate operations of public transportation on Shabbat. Instead, he's more concerned with becoming the next prime minister, and signaling to his future coalition partners the Haredim that things are back to normal.
But the Shabbat crisis du jour gave Katz an opportunity to demonstrate the same determination that has earned him the nickname "The Bulldozer" by some of his supporters: The Tel Aviv municipality and the Ayalon Highways Co. have examined the matter and found that a complex engineering project done over a main traffic artery requires work during the Shabbat—which was also approved by the Labor Ministry and the Israel Police. Haredi politicians, with the backing of the Haredi media, protested (not exactly loudly) the violation of the status quo. What will "The Bulldozer" do? Will he take the same position he took in the train Shabbat works affair—which almost led to early elections—or perhaps he got the hint after that about who he shouldn't mess with if he is still planning on getting to the Prime Minister's Office?
Katz didn't even leave any time for a healthy dose of tensions, and first thing Wednesday morning he ordered the planned works cancelled. In one of his excuses, he claimed that "the manner chosen for the construction of the bridge appears problematic and could seriously and disproportionately harm the general public during the weekend." Such consideration, such concern. Because if the works are done during the week, when half of the country is trying to get to work/school/the army/home without exploding with frustration, the traffic jams that will be created in the busiest road in Israel won't constitute "serious and disproportionate harm the general public." No way. It'll be fun to spend time with the thousands of pissed off drivers who will be moving at the pace of peace talks. We could get to know new people and compose songs with our car horns.
Furthermore, if Katz is so alert to the suffering of the "general public" on the weekend, it's a wonder he doesn't order the immediate operations of public transportation on Shabbat. After all, the lack of such public transportation on the weekend is only one of the reasons masses of Israelis buy cars—those who could afford it, of course—so they could do something on the day of rest and perhaps visit relatives living far away or enjoy a nice trip outside their area of residence. Someone who talks about "serious and disproportionate harm" in the context of transportation on the weekend should remember the poor, who pay the price of the Shabbat every week, year round.
In addition, the government's conduct is ridiculous when considering the Olympic flexibility it demonstrated during the Giro d'Italia race. As you may remember, about three months ago the land was awash with cycling mania when the prestigious race landed in Israel. Roads were blocked, ushers and police secured, and the masses went out to watch the wonder—and not on a week day. Then, for some reason, there was no climbing the barricades or unconditional surrender, but rather quite the extravagant enjoyment of the positive PR and the appearance of a normal country. It's a shame the current planned works were not called "Giro d'Bridge." Maybe then it would've gone quietly.
But it appears Katz doesn't really want quiet. Early elections are going to be called soon and sometimes, maybe, the Netanyahu era would end, so it's a shame to get in trouble today with tomorrow's coalition. To him, this is an ideal chance to signal the Haredi politicians that everything is back to normal. Let Yair Lapid and Avi Gabbay to make some noise in the media and online—a government with the Haredi parties is more realistic and therefore more important. But first, it appears, Katz has to do penance. After all, we're in the month of forgiveness, Elul, aren't we?