Politically, Israel has much to celebrate this year – but with the “reward” comes risks, said Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz. Besides the positive direction of U.S. policy for Israel’s growth in Yehudah and Shomron, 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War – and the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. “As a result, we can expect to be under greater pressure this year,” said Katz at a Yerushalayim event.
To celebrate, Katz wants to see as many Israelis as possible visit Yerushalayim this year – and to do that, he plans to provide free bus service from the center of the country this Pesach. “We need to say loudly and clearly – ‘no’ to an Arab state, ‘yes’ to a strong, united, Yerushalayim under Israeli sovereignty,” said Katz. “I want to increase the area of jurisdiction of Yerushalayim and the number of Jews in the city, and bring the high-speed train from Tel Aviv to Yerushalayim right to the gates of the Old City.”
The first step in that effort will be to institute the free bus lines from Tel Aviv to the Old City this Pesach. Many Israelis, said Katz, want to visit the city on chagim, but are afraid to drive to Yerushalayim, either because of the security situation in the city, or, more commonly, because of the city’s legendary traffic tie-ups. A free bus service to Yerushalayim during Chol Hamo’ed will solve both those issues for residents of the center of the country.
Katz has proposed expanding the municipal boundaries of Yerushalayim to include Gush Etzion, Maale Adumim, Givat Ze’ev, Beitar Illit and Israeli towns east of the city into a single metropolis. The different sections of Metropolitan Yerushalayim will operate as interdependent boroughs, each managing its own affairs but a part of the city for administrative, budgeting, and other purposes, as is the case in New York and London.
Arab villages and neighborhoods beyond the security fence that are currently part of the Yerushalayim municipality will be set up with their own municipal administration, providing their own services independently for residents. Arab municipal administrators would be free to make their own decisions on construction, budgets. Essential services like water, electricity and law enforcement would remain in the hands of Metropolitan Yerushalayim, but education and other services would be provided by the local administration.