'People will only wake up when a child is burned to death'

Finance Ministry holding up funding to replace aging armored bus fleet despite series of potentially fatal incidents.

Hezki Baruch ,

school bus on fire near Psagot
school bus on fire near Psagot
Binyamin Regional Council

The fleet of armored buses in Judea and Samaria is in a state of disrepair, while the funds needed to fix or replace them remain held up by the Finance Ministry.

Over the past year, four buses carrying students to school or on school trips were set on fire, and several buses had brake failures in the middle of a run. Miraculously, there have been no casualties - so far, thank G-d.

Chairman of the Subcommittee for Judea and Samaria, MK Motti Yogev (the Jewish Home) has long promoted the issue of funding for the purchase of new buses, and argues that the poor condition of the current fleet causes an "immediate danger" to residents.

"About 185 buses have been on the road for 15 years with an estimated travel distance of 1.5 million kilometers (about 1 million miles) per bus, and they do not meet any safety and security standards," MK Yogev said. It is a scandal that this is how things are conducted. This represents a real danger to human life and is a violation of safety and security regulations. Who will lay the blame when a child is burned to death on a bus? Will someone wake up then?"

Despite the concrete danger, the NIS 45 million ($12.8 million) promised by the coalition as an immediate response to upgrade the bus fleet has remained frozen for months.

Six months ago, the budget transfer was approved by the Finance Ministry. However, the money has not been transferred due to the Finance Committee's objection to approving it separately from a series of additional budgetary transfers.

According to MK Yogev, "the failure to transfer the budget, beyond security and safety issues, will stop the production lines in the vehicle factories, and will impede the ability to renew the bus fleet."

Two months ago, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ordered Coalition Chairman David Bitan o resolve the problem, but the Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu party refused to separate the bus fleet funding from the overall "package" and submit it to the Finance Committee for review.

With the opening of the Knesset's winter session yesterday (Monday), MK Yogev turned to Education Minister Naftali Bennett and the Prime Minister's Office, demanding that the coalition agreement be implemented and that the bus fleet be replaced immediately.