Israrail train Bombardier 311.
(photo credit: Bombardier)
Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Shaul Mofaz
(Kadima) threatened Sunday to hold up the defense budget until the issue
of soldiers traveling on trains is resolved.
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On Sunday, a new
arrangement between the IDF and Israel Railways came into effect,
eliminating free rides on most trains between the hours of 6 and 9 a.m.
on Sundays. The arrangement is expected to save the IDF money and
to reduce overcrowding during those hours.
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criticized the new arrangement, saying it is unacceptable to turn IDF
soldiers into "second-class" commuters in order to save money, speaking with Israel Radio.
"Until the new arrangement is canceled and soldiers are still unable ride the train for free, i have no intention of approving the transfer of funds" to the defense budget, Mofaz said during a Foreign Affairs and Defense Commitee tour at Tel Aviv's central railway station Sunday morning.
Isaac Herzog (Labor) also condemned the move saying, "the
implementation of the arrangement simply looks like an experiment with
"At the end of the day, the burden falls on the soldiers and their families, he added."
MK Miri Regev said of the new rules, "If there is no other option we'll cancel the arrangement with legislative means."
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni (Kadima) also threatened legislation to reverse the decision, saying Kadima would pass a law prohibiting such changes.
"After throwing women to the back of the bus they're throwing soldiers off of the train," Livni said in a written statement.
opposition leader said it was a soldier's "right" and the state's
"duty" to provide free rail-transportation for soldiers, and threw her
support behind planned demonstrations for Sunday morning. The policy is
aimed at reducing the number of passengers on Israel Railway's busiest
day of the week
"Kadima MKs have started to sign a law that would
ensure [free transportation for soldiers] if the government does not
steer from its course," she said.
The arrangement stipulates that during the blackout hours soldiers will be offered free
bus rides between train stations in Tel Aviv and north and to their bases
throughout the country.
A senior IDF officer said on Thursday that the
military agreed to the change in an effort to improve the quality of service for
civilians who pack into the trains on Sunday.
“Soldiers will instead ride
in comfortable, convenient buses that will take them directly to their bases,”
the officer said.
On Sunday mornings train stations across the country
are jammed with soldiers making their way to their bases after weekend leave.
One of those soldiers, Noa, who serves in the Caracal Battalion in the Southern
Command, said the changes would dramatically increase the time it took her to go
from her home in Moshav Ramot on the Golan Heights to her base near the Egyptian
Noa said that with the train she has to leave home at 4 a.m. and
make her way to Haifa where she boards an express train to Beersheba, and
arrives at her base around 2 p.m. If she has to take buses, not only will it be
much less comfortable, but she will probably arrive an hour or two
“We are soldiers serving our country in the army; we deserve to be
able to ride the train in the morning,” Noa said.
On the other hand, Mark
Weiss, the father of a seaman serving at a naval base outside Haifa, said the
change would not have a major effect on his son.
“He can still ride the
shuttle bus, so we’ll have to wait and see how it works out. It may take a bit
longer if there’s traffic, but it’s not like now he’ll have to be paying out of
his own pocket.”
Weiss added: “In the worst-case scenario, he may have to
leave a bit earlier in the morning on Sundays.”Yaakov Katz and Ben Hartman contributed to this report.