Likud head Binyamin Netanyahu, promised to put an end to poverty in Israel within three years, as part of the party's economic plan presented on Tuesday. "I commit myself to wipe out poverty in Israel within the next three years. We are now in a position of economic growth, where we can give back to those who are angry with me," said Netanyahu. Netanyahu recently has been fiercely criticized for his socioeconomic policy as finance minister, which allegedly lacked the means necessary to face the ever-widening social gaps and led to 1.5 million people living below the poverty line in Israel in 2003. "When I was on the former Knesset Committee for the rights of the child, I saw that every time there was a possibility to save thousands of children from being pushed below the poverty line, Bibi didn't, said Labor MK Rabbi Michael Malchior, in response to the pledge. "Bibi's presentation today is spitting into the face of the 366,000 endangered children whose situation worsened under his tenure as finance minister." Speaking at the Likud's headquarters in Tel Aviv, former finance minister Netanyahu rolled out a 10-point plan suggesting reforms in the tax system and a continuation of socioeconomic reforms to bring people back into the labor force as well as create more job opportunities and help the weak. "After a very difficult period of cutbacks during which I have transformed the economy to a state of rapid growth, only a continuation of economic growth and a policy of going out to work will extract Israel from the cycle of poverty," said Netanyahu. As part of the Likud's economic agenda, Netanyahu promised to lower the VAT by another 2.5 percent to 14% from 16.5% and to reduce the government's operations by cutting red tape in an effort to save money. In addition, Netanyahu suggested lowering income taxes for salaried workers in the top two categories from 49% to 40%, as well as lowering company tax to 20%. "We are dealing with actions, not words. All the talk about social benefits ends up dividing 'the cake.' The key to our [the Likud's] policies is to always enlarge 'the cake' and to divide it more wisely. That way, more of the 'cake' will be left, rather than just crumbs," Netanyahu said. Netanyahu argued that, in the past as the government cut taxes, the economy grew bringing more money in, allowing for more tax cuts. "In cutting red tape, reducing government operations and improving the tender process, we could save an annual NIS 2 billion and finance other activities," he explained. For example, to bring mothers back into the working place, Netanyahu proposed free day care centers and free afternoon care centers until the age of nine for single mothers. To support low income earners, the economic plan foresees a negative income tax which, in turn, would add an annual NIS 8,400 to salaries. To enable more young people to study, the Likud plan would introduce an annual allowance of NIS 3,000 towards university fees. Under Netanyahu's plan, monthly benefits to those who cannot work or the elderly would be raised to NIS 2,400 and they also would be eligible for a 50% reduction on medicine and an annual NIS 7,200 subsidy for rent. Summing up, Netanyahu said: "I am convinced that we will be one of the 10 leading countries in the world in terms of income per capita within 12 years and this would solve our social problems."

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