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MORE DRAMA: Blue & White MK: “I Won’t Vote With The Coalition, This Is Evil”

The chairman of the Knesset’s Economic Committee MK Michoel Biton (Blue and White) announced on Monday morning that he will no longer vote with the coalition due to the planned public transportation reforms which dramatically raise bus fares in cities and towns in the periphery and in two Chareidi cities.

The affected cities include Modiin Illit, Beitar Illit, Dimona, Tiveria, Ofakim and others. The ‘reform,’ advanced by Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli (Labor) and Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman targets socioeconomically weak and Chareidi cities. The rise in bus fares was not applied to neighboring communities of Modiin Illit and Beitar Illit, such as Neve Daniel or other yishuvim in Gush Etzion, despite the fact that these areas are economically strong.

Biton has slammed the reforms multiple times in past months, saying that they harm disadvantaged populations and he’ll have no part of it. He made a series of demands regarding the reform but Michaeli unequivocally refused his demands and refused to even attend the meeting to discuss the issue.

Biton announced his decision at the start of a meeting of the Economic Committee about the reform, beginning by slamming Michaeli: “You doubled the cost of transportation in the periphery. In two Chareidi cities, you raised the cost by 300%. This isn’t rishus [evil]?”

“You steal money from the public and call it ‘equality,’ Biton said. “I will no longer vote with the coalition except for no-confidence votes so it won’t become political. This isn’t political – it’s only due to to the harm to disadvantaged populations.”

“Don’t cause harm via public transportation and count me as a partner,” Biton said, adding that unless 70-80% of the reform is amended, he will not retract his decision. “I made a difficult decision because what hurts me is the harm to the poor. You can say it’s political but ultimately in Ofakim, Beit She’an, Tiveria, Mitzpeh Ramon, Kiryat Shmona and Sderot [all areas with a large disadvantaged population], the price of public transportation is rising by 130%. Did you want to hide this from the eyes of the public? You thought it would pass quietly? Not on my watch.”

Biton also slammed the Agriculture Ministry’s reforms, which he says harm Israeli farmers.

A Blue and White source downplayed Biton’s actions, saying that the party is behind him one hundred percent and the coalition will remain stable because the crisis is solvable. “Bennett and all the heads of the coalition should take Biton’s complaints seriously,” he said. “We call on Michaeli to act properly in the coalition and the Knesset and attend the discussions in the Economic Committee. Her conduct harms the weaker sector.”

Following Biton’s announcement, rumors began swirling that Blue and White is in talks with the Likud regarding forming a new government. However, the Blue and White source categorically denied this.

UTJ Uri Maklev responded to the announcement by stating: “MK Biton portrays what a real public mission is, while worrying about the weaker sectors in the periphery and the elderly.”

UTJ Yaakov Asher said: “Updated dictionary for the Bennett-Lapid coalition. Zoabi demands budgets for Nazareth, Kfar Qassem and Knfar Kanna – ‘real needs.” Michoel Biton worries about the weaker sectors in Beit She’an and Dimona – ‘a defector’s blackmail.’ Outrageous!”

“One tzaddik in Sdom rises up and says enough!” said Religious Zionist party chairman Betzalel Smotrich. “Enoch cruel treatment of the weaker sectors. Michoel, we’re behind you.”

“We’re all Michoel Biton!” said UTJ chairman Moshe Gafni.

(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)

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