At the start of yesterday’s cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed ministers calling for tax cuts, even as Minister of Interior Eli Yishai convened a special meeting of Shas ministers to discuss rising prices.
As for the gasoline price hike, Netanyahu, “We don’t control the global price of oil, but we can try to ease people’s distress in a measured and responsible way. Anyone who says that it’s possible to cut taxes and increase spending at the expense of the deficit, lacks responsibility and a grasp of economics.”
The remarks came a day after Netanyahu again intervened and cut the excise on gasoline to ease the price hike.
“We need taxes to buy another Iron Dome battery, to complete the border fence, finance free education for children, pave roads and build railroads, help the elderly and the needy – which, by the way, has resulted in the poverty index beginning to fall in the past two years, after rising for many years.”
Netanyahu claimed, “Israel citizens feel safer, thanks to the government’s aggressive defense policy. They feel safer thanks to the huge budgets we’ve allocated to protect the home front, with an emphasis on the procurement of Iron Dome batteries.” He continued, “Israel’s citizens also feel that this country and the economy are more stable, more secure. We’ve done well in the face of the global economic crisis.”
Netanyahu said, “Israel’s economy is growing, despite the global crisis, and the unemployment rate is the lowest since 1983. There is nothing more social than a jobs-creating economic policy.”
Yishai has a different take. “It’s unacceptable for the Ministry of Finance to threaten the public. Increasing the deficit and cutting taxes is what is needed in these hard times,” he told Israel Radio’s Reshet Bet today. “We won’t ignore the cries of Israel’s people who are dealing with rising prices on a daily basis. The government must take immediate and drastic steps to deal with the rise in the cost of living.”
Yesterday, on Channel 2’s “Meet the Press”, Steinitz blamed the rise in the price of gasoline on the sanctions against Iran, and said that he prefers that Israelis pay more for gasoline than to be worried about Iran’s nuclear program.
Steinitz claimed that Israel’s fuel excise was one of the lowest in developed countries. Steinitz also blamed the 8.9% electricity rate hike on the repeated attacks on natural gas pipelines in Sinai, and the delay in gas deliveries from the Tamar reservoir, which were supposed to begin this year. He says the delay is costing the Israeli economy NIS 15 billion.
Although Steinitz admitted that part of the rise in electricity prices is due to inefficiencies at Israel Electric Corporation, he said that he was trying to find ways to lower the price of electricity in the coming months.
Steinitz said that the steady increase in taxes was returned to the people through the free education for preschoolers, old age pensions, and infrastructure development. He said. “We’re not afraid of a new social protest this summer. Our main worries are the global economic crisis and the status of Iran’s nuclear program.”