Southern residents crash Knesset, demand restitution

Finance Committee meets to discuss 0% VAT but still hasn’t approved compensation for Gaza war damage.

September 4, 2014 01:00
2 minute read.
israel south

Netiv Ha'asara resident Shagi Yossef return home with his son after more than a mouth out of his house.. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Aided by the opposition, residents from the South demanding war compensation barged into a Knesset Finance Committee meeting on the 0% VAT housing proposal on Wednesday, eliciting rebukes from chairman Nissan Slomiansky.

“We’re falling apart and you’re talking about zero VAT? Who cares!! Help us,” a representative of the group said.

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The southern residents had been participating in a forum with Labor MK Erel Margalit before the session, who invited them to air their grievances.

“Imagine that the Finance Committee were meeting today to discuss how to transfer the NIS 3 billion that will be invested in the VAT law as a multi-year emergency plan for rehabilitating the South,” said Labor MK Stav Shaffir.

The government has approved a NIS 1.5b. plan for the South, but has not yet sent it to the committee for approval.

Yesh Atid MK Dov Lipman spoke out against Margalit, saying he was making a mockery of the Knesset.

“They are trying to postpone the vote in any way possible, including a show of ‘caring’ for the southern residents,” Lipman said, adding that both 0% VAT and aid to the South would move ahead.

Slomiansky of Bayit Yehudi met with the residents and promised them his support, noting that the committee had approved a half-billion shekels worth of advance payments already.

“The goal is to hold a serious and real discussion and not just let off steam. We must hold a hearing on the problems faced by the residents of the South with the participation of the tax authorities and government, with advance notice of the discussion, and not how it happened this morning, led by the opposition,” Slomiansky said.

MK Moshe Gafni of United Torah Judaism, who has opposed the 0% VAT bill on grounds that it discriminates against the ultra-Orthodox, tore into the committee’s leadership.

“The government is silencing the citizens of the South. They came from the war, and instead of dealing with Lapid’s dangerous frivolities that will endanger Israel’s economy, the government should listen to the people of the South,” he said.

In the morning, the opposition managed to prevent the planned hearing on the 0% VAT bill, Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s signature housing policy, which has come under intense criticism from economists, Arab parties, ultra-Orthodox MKs, and the professional staff of the Finance Ministry.

The opposition managed to delay passage of the bill during the summer session by presenting 2,000 reservations, each of which needs to be given a hearing in the committee.

When the committee took the issue back up in the afternoon, it started working its way through dozens of the reservations, but didn’t approve any. Further discussions are scheduled for Thursday.

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