MK Rabbi Gafni: Netanyahu Need Not Intervene in Shabbos Bridge Controversy

YERUSHALAYIM -
MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni (UTJ) on Thursday slammed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu over remarks he made about the “Shabbos bridge crisis.” Netanyahu “should not have intervened with his comments, such comments in the past have never helped,” Rabbi Gafni said at an event in Bnei Brak.

“When he said that it was ‘impossible’ to close the Ayalon Highway during the week, he was apparently unaware of some of the things that are going [on] in this country.”

Rabbi Gafni was referring to comments Netanyahu made before he boarded a plane to Lithuania Thursday morning. Referring to the decision by Katz to postpone construction of a pedestrian bridge that had been scheduled for Shabbos, Netanyahu said that “it is unreasonable to close the Ayalon Highway during the weekdays,” after Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz said Wednesday that he would do just that.

Katz has been severely criticized by a wide variety of politicians, who accused him of “capitulating” to the chareidim for his decision. Construction of the planned bridge that is to be built over the Ayalon Expressway in Tel Aviv – and that would have entailed construction work for the next six weekends, including on Shabbos – was suspended until further notice, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz said Wednesday. Katz declared the announcement by the Tel Aviv Municipality Tuesday that the highway would be closed in either direction for 24 hours beginning on Friday at 6:00 p.m. to allow for the construction of the bridge as “angering and unnecessary.”

Chief among the critics was Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, who said that the decision would lead to a “transportation catastrophe” that will “cause terrible harm to Israel,” adding that he planned to petition the High Court that it force the Transportation Ministry to carry out the work on Shabbos, for the benefit of residents and commuters.

MK Rabbi Gafni said that the entire affair was “hypocritical. They close the Ayalon Highway when they have a big parade, they close it when they have a mass sporting event. And they close many other roads as well. There is no reason they can’t close the highway at night for the construction work. I congratulate Minister Katz for his decision, and I believe the Prime Minister was mistaken in his comments.”

The Yehudit Bridge, which will be dedicated to pedestrians and bikers, is meant to connect the eastern side of Tel Aviv to the rest of the city, with both sides currently bisected by the Ayalon Expressway. The bridge would lead to a major mass transit transportation hub that is being built for the Tel Aviv light rail, and an Israel Railways station.