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Rebel coalition MK Biton softens his vote boycott, but says ‘large gaps’ remain

Carrie Keller-Lynn is a political and legal correspondent for The Times of Israel

Blue and White MK Michael Biton leads an Economic Affairs Committee meeting at the Knesset, in Jerusalem on December 7, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Blue and White MK Michael Biton leads an Economic Affairs Committee meeting at the Knesset, in Jerusalem on December 7, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A week into his renewed boycott of most coalition votes, Blue and White MK Michael Biton softens his stance by agreeing to vote with the coalition to approve Omicron-related grants, while stressing that “large gaps” still remain between himself and Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli on resolving Biton’s ongoing protests over public transportation reforms.

“We had to clear the air over issues with the Economic Affairs Committee that developed over time,” Biton says in comments made at the outset of the committee’s afternoon session. He has expressed frustration that Michaeli’s Transportation Ministry bypassed the Economic Affairs Committee, which Biton chairs, when pursuing reforms.

But regarding the specific issue of transportation reforms on the table, “large gaps remain,” he says.

Biton has not resumed voting with the coalition, says his spokesman, but he will vote for the financial grants for businesses hurt during the Omicron wave of COVID-19 earlier this year. A spokesperson for Yamina MK Abir Kara, who initiated the legislation, says that it’s not expected to come up for its second and third readings today, following opposition reservations.

Since last Monday, Biton has been on a renewed boycott against voting in most coalition votes in protest over transportation reform. Yesterday afternoon, Biton and Michaeli met for the first time to discuss a way to solve what has become a coalition headache at a sensitive time.

“The issue of the periphery and poorer communities is in my soul,” says Biton, explaining that he is still unwilling to accede to Michaeli’s plan to cancel regional price discrimination in favor of a united public transportation fare.

However, Biton says he has “given up on the issue of stored value discounts” on public transportation passes, which Michaeli’s reform also eliminates.

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