By Andrew Friedman
MK Moti Yogev (Jewish Home) threatened Monday to stop voting with the coalition if the Knesset finance committee does not approve NIS 45 million today for bulletproofing buses in Judea and Samaria.
Followed a rash of attacks on Judea and Samaria roads Sunday night, including a shooting attack on a civilian bus near the town of Ofra, in Binyamin, Yogev wrote on Twitter that “We don’t need to wait until someone is killed in a shooting attack. If the finance committee does not approve NIS 45 million for this, I will stop supporting Coalition bills and they will lack my vote in the Knesset. The measure will continue until public transportation and school buses have been made bulletproof.”
During the second intifada, when roadside shootings became commonplace, the IDF Central Command instructed civilian bus companies to operate bulletproof buses in Judea and Samaria and Gaza. But the extra protection adds extra weight to the buses, which in turn increases wear-and-tear. To offset the added cost of upkeep, the government has agreed to contribute NIS 60 million a year to maintain the buses, but the bulk of the money for the current financial year has yet to be processed.
“The normal rules for public buses in Israel is 10 years on the road,” said Itamar Segal, a spokesman for Yogev, adding that even the NIS 60 million annual upkeep budget is little more than a “bandaid” for the problem of aging buses.
“But the fleet in Judea and Samaria – about 150 buses – have all driven about 1.5 million kilometres and haven’t been replaced for about 20 years. It’s gotten to a point that buses are catching fire – it’s happened in the last few months near Psagot, outside Ofra, Avigail. The old engines can’t take the pressure that is put on them and they catch fire. In another incident, the breaks on a bus failed near the Kalandia checkpoint.
“People’s lives are at stake here,” Segal said.
Spokespeople for the Jewish Home party said that Yogev’s stance was an individual initiative and does not reflect the party’s position or plans. But a spokesman for Yogev told Tazpit Press Service (TPS) that Yogev and MK Bezalel Smotrich, also a member of the Jewish Home faction and a member of the Knesset Finance Committee, were working together to address the issue.
“Bezalel hasn’t said he wouldn’t vote for coalition bills, but he is flexing his muscles as part of the finance committee. He’s already held up two votes because of this issue and he is prepared to do it again if the money isn’t transferred,” the spokesman said.