Israel announced on Wednesday that it was freezing plans to close Tel Aviv's main artery on a series of six Saturdays to build a pedestrian bridge.
The decision was made after pressure from religious members of the government coalition who opposed working on the Sabbath.
The municipality of Tel Aviv-Jaffa announced Tuesday the construction of the new Yehudit bridge over the Ayalon Highway. Transport Minister Yisrael Katz said on Wednesday that the municipality's announcement is "scandalous and unnecessary" and ordered the city to submit an alternative plan for the works.
The Yehudit bridge had to be built over the motorway for six weeks, planned over several months. The first motorway closure was scheduled for 31 August. Katz said that the chosen way of building could be disproportionately expensive for the public on the weekends & # 39 ;.
In a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday, MK Yinon Azulai (Shas) complained that Tel Aviv's plan was a gross violation of the coalition agreement and that it was inconceivable that the sacred sabbath would be trampled into the state of the state be & # 39 ;. Jewish people from all places. "
The mayor of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Ron Huldai, was outraged by Katz's decision and said that "closing the Ayaon Highway in the middle of the week will create a transport catastrophe for the public."
"This government has lost all sense of shame," he added.
After Katz exchanged plans for the Saturday, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid said on Twitter that "the ultra-orthodox, who are the ones who really control the coalition, have ordered Netanyahu to suspend works."
& # 39; Netanyahu is of course obeyed and suspended [the works]and we will be the ones trapped in terrible traffic jams, "he said, presumably referring to the probable outcome of formwork on Tel Aviv's central highway on weekdays and diverting traffic to the streets of the city.
After Katz's announcement, the Meretz party contacted her colleagues in the opposition to urge the Knesset to organize a special session, although the parliament is currently in a summer recess. Tamar Zandberg, president of Meretz, said that "in a liberal democratic country by 2018 infrastructure works must be carried out according to needs and in the way that causes the slightest inconvenience, not based on the unenlightened vagaries of politicians serving their rabbis. instead of the audience. "
Meretz managed to collect sufficient signatures on Wednesday and as a result a special Knesset session will meet during the summer break to discuss this issue.
"Katz's intolerant surrender to the ultra-orthodox proves how far this government distances Israel from a liberal democracy," said Zandberg.
Vice Minister of Health Yaakov Litzman of the ultra-orthodox party United Torah Judaism congratulated Minister Katz on the fact that he had shown a sense of public responsibility and had prevented unnecessary damage to the status quo and the tradition of Israel. ; According to Litzman, "keeping the Sabbath as a national rest day is the ultimate value for generations." Canceling Saturday's works on the Yehudit Bridge is a moral and blessed step that calls for a sound judgment, rather than provoking the religious and traditional people that form the majority of people in Israel. "