A decision by Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich to cancel public bus lines that were violating the law by starting operations before the end of Shabbos drew a flurry of reported complaints in the local media on Thursday.
For many years the ministry had been ignoring the infractions, and the unexpected enforcement brought angry reactions from secular leaders.
The Blue and White party seized on it to repeat their promise of undoing the status quo if elected:
Chairman Benny Gantz responded by saying: “The State of Israel is a Jewish state and not a state of Jewish law. We’ll win and take care of this – everyone will be able to live the way they want.”
MK Yair Lapid said: “There will be a different government and a different status quo. We won’t give in to them.”
“This is about power, bullying and religious coercion,” charged Avigdor Liberman.
Smotrich seemed unfazed. He said he was merely enforcing the status quo and sought to deflect the protests as cynical politics:
“The National Public Transport Authority is acting professionally and with a hand on the pulse of Israeli citizens. There is a status quo on the issue of Shabbat and it’s not changing. To all the haters of religion who are striving to create spins and storms, breathe deeply. There is someone who truly cares about public transportation.”
“Okay, I get it now, we’re into election season,” Smotrich added.
“We have chosen to consider the religious public in places where it’s possible without compromising the routine of the secular public,” an official was quoted as saying by Arutz Sheva. “People need to understand that we’re implementing government policy.”