Judge orders Labor to stop ‘Shabbat bus’ ahead of election

Labor's Shabbat bus  (photo credit: Courtesy)
Labor's Shabbat bus
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melcer, chairman of the Central Elections Committee, ordered the Labor Party to stop operating bus services on Shabbat as part of its election campaign, following a petition from Shas on Friday.
For the third week in a row, Labor had planned to operate a bus on Saturday, as part of its election campaign calling for public transportation on Shabbat. On Friday, they announced a circular route through major areas of Rishon Lezion.
“It’s economical, and it’s just,” Labor’s spokeswoman said. “Labor is committed to promoting public transportation on Shabbat. It is not a provocation against any population, but a social need. Hundreds of thousands of citizens are not willing to pay thousands of shekels on taxis or stay trapped at home.”
Shas then petitioned the Central Elections Committee calling the buses illegal. The party cited election campaign laws prohibiting “election propaganda connected to giving gifts” and a law defining an election bribe as “money, something of monetary value, a service or other benefit.”
The haredi party also quoted Zionist philosopher Ahad Ha’am, who said “more than Israel kept Shabbat, Shabbat kept Israel,” and Tel Aviv’s first mayor Meir Dizengoff, who said, “It is not a question of religion alone, but a public and national one; Shabbat cannot be violated publicly.”
Labor responded that Shas is trying to impose its beliefs on Israelis.
“There is no way to undermine the importance that Labor sees in making public transportation on the day of rest accessible to citizens of Israel in general and especially weaker populations who do not have a private car,” the party’s statement to Melcer reads. “Labor believes that talking is not enough... [Ideologies] have to be taken from speech to action.”
Melcer, however, ruled that Labor must stop operating the buses, saying that they are, in fact, “election propaganda connected to giving gifts.” The parties will have a chance to bring new response before the Central Elections Committee on Monday, which will then come to a final ruling on the matter.
Labor leader Avi Gabbay said: “Today they want to cancel our Shabbat bus in Rishon Lezion, but Labor has two main promises: public transportation on Shabbat and a two-term limit for prime ministers. We won’t let Shas decide whether there is public transportation on Shabbat. On April 10,” - the day after elections – “we will change that, as well.”