Tel aviv budget protest crowd 370.
(photo credit: Camilla Schick)
The answer to poverty is work, not government welfare support, Finance Minister
Yair Lapid said on Thursday.
Responding to an OECD report that pegged
Israel’s poverty level in 2010 as the highest among developed countries, Lapid
told Israel Radio, “Allowances don’t take people out of poverty, they keep
people in poverty. Work brings people out of poverty.”
pointed out that in Israel, two groups contributed to overall poverty more than
any others: the ultra-Orthodox and the Arabs.
“It is already sad that
there are groups that are predefined as poor,” he said, arguing that his
2013-2014 state budget and upcoming reforms would push those populations into
the workforce in greater numbers.
The interview was one of a handful
Lapid gave on Thursday on the heels of a drop in his Yesh Atid party’s standing
in the polls. Since the release of his draft 2013- 2014 budget, Lapid has faced
accusations that he broke campaign promises amid popular discontent over reduced
child allotments and increased income taxes. Following the media blitz, Lapid
planned a live question-and-answer session on Facebook late on Thursday night to
communicate with members of the public and address their concerns
Lapid said the polls were actually a sign of faith in his
“There were two polls this week. In one I lost two mandates and in
the other I lost three [from the 19 Knesset seats his party garnered in
January’s election]. If this is the hardest political fall, if that’s all I
lost, then we learned something: that all the people who thought that Yesh Atid
was a trend party see that it is something solid,” he told Army
While expressing empathy at popular anger toward his fiscal policy, Lapid also dismissed his critics, who
he said “simply don’t know the details. In a year, they’ll say thank God there
was a responsible hand at the wheel.”
“For example, I’m not harming the
middle class, I’m helping the middle class,” he said.
While it’s true
that Ricky Cohen – the fictional embodiment of a middleclass woman Lapid
introduced into the national conversation earlier in the year – would have
nearly NIS 300 less in take-home pay each month, Lapid argued that money was
being invested in a better future.
“Part of protecting and defending the
middle class means ensuring that the Israeli economy and all the social services
don’t collapse around it,” he told Army Radio later in the morning.
budget, he said, avoided cuts on the disabled, Holocaust survivors and retirees,
while the income tax increase didn’t affect those making under NIS 5,000 a
month. But more than anything, Lapid maintained that the real engines of growth
would come in a series of upcoming reforms, not from the budget.
after Lapid on Israel Radio, National Insurance Institute director-general
Shlomo Mor-Yosef said the poverty problem was more widespread than Lapid made it
out to be.
“It’s not just people who don’t work,” he said. “Working
people are also under the poverty line.”
Defending his recent agreement
with Histadrut labor federation chairman Ofer Eini, Lapid said that a negotiated
agreement was best for all sides. The Histadrut, he said, gave up NIS 1.5
billion for the budget, and the agreement allowed the country to avert a costly
One week of striking, he said, would cause enough damage to
necessitate a doubling of the tax increases he had proposed.
declare a war that will get a week of headlines but won’t net the state a dime,”