'Third election will damage Israeli democracy'

'I think that everyone understands that further elections are a very bad thing and there needs to be a broad unity government.'

Nitzan Keidar,

Bezalel Smotrich
Bezalel Smotrich
Flash 90

Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich said in a conversation with Arutz Sheva that he thinks that the solution to the post-election political turmoil will only be achieved at the very last minute.

"Everyone thinks that by the end of the day if a government is established, it will be towards the end of the 21 days. [Smotrich is referring to the 21-day period after the president concludes that the candidates recommended by the Knesset factions cannot form a government, when a majority of Knesset members have an opportunity to recommend a candidate without the need for party recommendations.] I think that everyone understands that further elections are a very bad thing and there needs to be a broad unity government that should be shared by everyone who believes in Israel as a Jewish and democratic state."

"The significance of such a unity government is that both parties should cede on controversial issues and concentrate on the common denominator and there is a great deal of that. There is, of course, a price. We want to apply sovereignty to Judea and Samaria and legislate the laws of governance and if we establish a unity government we will need to wait."

Smotrich warns against further elections. "We need to understand that elections for the third time will, first and foremost, damage the Israeli public's confidence in a democracy that is already weak. We talk a lot about governance and we should have an interest in not weakening the political system any further, which naturally strengthens legal and economic officials."

Smotrich didn't explicitly say so but implied that there is no reason for his party not to be part of a unity government. "We have said all along that a unity government cannot stand on the basis of disqualification. Anyone who disqualifies others and focuss on issues that divide Israeli society does not really aspire to a unity government."

Will [Yisrael Beyteinu chairman Avigdor] Liberman eventually return to the right? "That's what was asked. We can't understand Liberman's irresponsible conduct in the previous round. He was the one who forced us into second elections. If he had joined the Netanyahu government the first time we could have been at the height of action now. Liberman torpedoed all of it due to personal issues between him and Netanyahu."

Smotrich claims that there's no need to get excited about the split within the right-wing party as it is purely technical. "When we merged, we told voters it was a technical bloc. The merger was technical to form one political platform although, in essence, we cooperated together, are cooperating together and will continue to cooperate and work together with full coordination."

Smotrich launched a new program on Sunday that is converting a portion of traffic lanes on highways to special lanes for public transportation and cooperative travel.

"We're converting lanes which until now served private vehicles to be used by public transportation and cooperative travel vehicles. Ultimately, there's no solution to the problems of traffic jams in Israel other than these two solutions. There are 300,000 thousand new vehicles on the roads each year and there will always be traffic jams. Until now no one had an alternative. As of now, there's an alternative and whoever wants to continue driving alone will continue to sit in traffic jams. Whoever is interested in an alternative, in public transportation or the addition of only one passenger, will be able to drive in the free lane."

Smotrich isn't afraid of Israelis' reactions who won't be pleased about traffic lanes being taken away from them. "I've been receiving various reactions recently since we publicized this move. There are some who are very happy and encouraging and there is no doubt that drivers of private vehicles aren't happy about it. We are committed to providing an alternative for those who don't want traffic jams. We carried this move out on the coastal and northern Ayalon highways and it was substantiated by a very significant increase in public transportation lines."

The program that began on Sunday is only one part of a larger program. "We're developing apps that will allow people to find travel partners and are exploring further steps to encourage collaborative travel. Currently, a taxi cannot issue more than one invoice for a cab ride and we want to change that and also look at revising regulations so that individuals can make some money from collaborative travel."

"I suggest not to evaluate this move tomorrow or even in a month. A month after we opened Highway 6, people said that it was a redundant road and today everyone knows that it is one of the most efficient and important roads in Israel. We believe this move is justified and together with further solutions it will prove itself."