By Adam Smith, Internationalist Socialist League (RCIT Section in Israel / Occupied Palestine), 06.08.2021, http://www.the-isleague.com
The Israeli Treasury has proposed a congestion tax of 37.5 shekels per day for those entering Tel Aviv starting in 2024, as well as eliminating discounts on tickets for public transport. This proposal (for the congestion tax) has received support from many “left-wing” supporters, therefore it is important to take a closer look at its effects.
Firstly, Liberman the finance minister has said that the cuts would not affect commuters, which is out of touch with reality as the discount of charging money on the transport card (as opposed to using a monthly pass) is such that for somebody who uses it for 2 rides a day 5 times a week inside Tel Aviv area or even three days a week for someone commuting from further, the monthly pass barely saves any money.
This is on top of deteriorating service due to Covid. And even before, there were serious problems with the public transport system, as it doesn’t work on Shabbat (Saturday) or Friday afternoon. In addition, most trains don’t run on the weekends at all, and after 22:00 or even 20:30 at night. You can see why many people would prefer to use a car (renting a car is not realistic either as the only branch to open on Shabbat is in the airport), and if they already have a car they will use it on the weekdays as well. Even if there is a way to use public transport, because of the fact virtually all neighborhoods and suburbs that were designed after 1948 (aka in the Car Age), were designed in such a way that they require a car, as public transport takes way longer and is unreliable. This is also tied with Zionist ideology of occupying as much land as possible and not creating an urban core.
The Tel Aviv metropolitan is one of the largest in the world without a metro system (which is a problem as buses get stuck in traffic with cars). Construction has started on rail lines, but it is still supposed to take years and in the meanwhile, it has put further stress on the network.
All of this leads to the fact that the official purpose of the congestion toll is to encourage public transport use, but if the alternative of public transport is not effective, then one will have to continue to use a car, and it will essentially become just a tax. While congestion charges have reduced traffic, they have also led to a gentrification of the city (for example in London), with high income workers in the core of the city who can afford the rents there and everybody else outside. This is portrayed as a tax on the rich but the reality is that a rich person uses the car to get to work as much as a poor person, but earns a lot more, so this tax, like the VAT, is highly regressive (a classic example in Israel was the “luxury” import charge on TVs over 50 inches). Owning a car today is hardly a marker of great wealth (more of “lower middle class” or higher), it is a necessity to get to work, and no doubt most people would prefer using other modes of transport if presented with a better option. Those issues come into play when more urban left wingers meet more sub-urban working-class populations, like in the Yellow Vests movement. Also, this congestion system will have a cost of its own to set up and maintain and it will be a surveillance system of its own.
Another great example of a “green” policy helping a certain segment of the bourgeoisie is direct subsidies for big corporations invested in EV, like Tesla.  Also, green cap and trade schemes in Australia or the green car credits in the US have made Tesla more money (from trading its green credits) than from selling cars.  Those market-based mechanisms, such as buying carbon credits or reforestation credits are highly problematic as there is a strong incentive to cheat, e.g. to get the money for planting the trees to offset CO2 emissions but not to actually plant them. Micheal Moore had a movie on those fake “Green” policies (like the promotion of biomass energy instead of growing corn and other foods) called “Planet of the Humans” in 2019 which was censored by YouTube for a few seconds of alleged copyright infringement.
The new budget also includes further attacks against the working class such as raising the pension age, increased budget for the military to prepare for further attacks against Iran and Gaza, a cut to unemployment benefits for those under 45, as well as proposals to strengthen the “Green Pass” system. Those proposals are often tied to the vote on the budget, in an anti-democratic mechanism called the “Economic Arrangements Law“, similar to the Spanish Ley de Acompañamiento, and found in many other “democratic” countries such as the U.S. or Belgium.
“One of the main arguments against the Arrangements Law is that it is passed in a procedure that “circumvents democracy”. In debates in the Knesset plenum since 1986 concerning the Arrangements Law as a phenomenon, dozens of statements in this spirit were made by Members of the Knesset from all sections of the House. This is what MK Maxim Levy (Gesher) said on December 23, 1997: “For many years this law turned into an anti-democratic law, which empties the Knesset Committees of any content… The Government cancels laws that were legislated in the Knesset Committees after much toil – they heard various publics, listened to them, initiated by means of this House laws that gave solace to thousands of people, and here comes the Government one night and asks this coalition machine to erase and run over laws…”. In all the countries in which we found laws similar to the Arrangements Law we found similar statements regarding the anti-democratic procedure by which they are approved.”
Down with the new budget!
For a usable mass public transport system!
Down with the “Green Industrial Complex” and “green” corporate welfare – for a real plan to combat climate change!
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We refer reader to the respective sections on environment in the RCIT’s Programmatic Manifesto’s:
The Fire of Revolution Will Burn Down Catastrophic Capitalism! (2021): Chapter “The Climate Disaster caused by Capitalism”, https://www.thecommunists.net/rcit-fire-manifesto-2021/#anker_4
Manifesto for Revolutionary Liberation (2016): Chapter IV, https://www.thecommunists.net/rcit-program-2016/
The Revolutionary Communist Manifesto (2012): Chapter V, https://www.thecommunists.net/rcit-manifesto/