Israel Railways announced yesterday that because of the cancellation of the works planned for Saturday, the Tel Aviv-Haifa line would not be fully operational until 19:00 this evening. This is with the aim of completing the work on upgrading the line that was halted on the prime minister's instructions on Friday afternoon. The issue of public works on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, cause high tension over the weekend between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's bureau and Minister of Transport Yisrael Katz, with the former accusing the latter of deliberately precipitating the crisis with the haredi (Ultra-Orthodox Jewish) political parties that led to the prime minister calling of the Saturday work on the railway at the last minute, and being the cause of disruption to public transport and hardship to soldiers returning from weekend leave.
The statement from the Prime Minister's Bureau reads: "This is an initiated and unnecessary crisis on the part of Minister Yisrael Katz designed to undermine relations between the Prime Minister and the ultra-orthodox public or alternatively to damage the image of the Prime Minister among the general public. From the outset there was no need to initiate work on Shabbat. It would have been possible to carry out the work on other dates that would not have harmed the ultra-orthodox public, passengers or soldiers. For example, it would have been possible to combine the work with the eight-day shutdown of the railroad which has the approval of the Transportation Ministry in the coming weeks.
"Israel Katz is holding passengers and soldiers as hostages in an unnecessary and artificial crisis that he initiated after having failed in his attempt to take over the Likud institutions. The Prime Minister is outraged over Minister Katz's cynical attack on passengers and soldiers and is doing his utmost to minimize the damage to these publics in the next 24 hours. To this end, the Prime Minister and Defense Minister have agreed to place buses at the disposal of soldiers over the next 24 hours. The Prime Minister has also instructed the Transportation Ministry to boost public transportation between Tel Aviv and Haifa with additional buses."
Yisrael Katz has so far not responded to the prime minister's attack on him. There has been bad blood between the two politicians since Katz attempted to wrest powers within the Likud party from Netanyahu and was forced to back down last month. Netanyahu is apparently looking for an excuse to fire Katz, who sees himself as a future prime minister, but it is doubtful whether he has the backing of his party for such a move. Coalition chairman MK David Bitan told Walla! News this morning, "The prime minister has made up his mind to fire minister Katz, but we are now trying to prevent this."
There is widespread disruption to other parts of the railway system as well. Additional buses have been put on to help deal with the problem, and the IDF is providing special transport for soldiers.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on September 4, 2016
© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2016