311_ amir peretz.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski/The Jerusalem Post))
The Knesset continued to debate price increases on Monday, a day after Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s plan to reduce fuel costs went into
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While Likud lawmakers, including the prime minister, were quick
to praise the government’s response to rising costs of living, opposition MKs
joined with other coalition parties in continuing to criticize what they
described as insufficient measures to help the middle and lower
Treasury officials told members of the Knesset’s Finance
Committee that the government’s plans to fund cuts to the prices of gasoline,
water and public transportation would be funded by some combination of three
options: temporarily canceling income tax cuts for the wealthy, delaying plans
to reduce corporate taxes, and across-the-board cuts to government
During the often-stormy meeting, Meretz chairman Haim Oron
read out the names of Likud legislators who, although members of the Finance
Committee, were absent from Monday’s debate. Of the ruling party’s
members, only one – MK Tzion Pinyan – was present during the
Other coalition representatives, including committee chairman MK
Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) and MK Amnon Cohen (Shas), were openly
critical of the government’s response to and even its role in creating the
rising prices. Cohen told Treasury director-general Haim Shani that the powerful
Knesset committee would not approve the proposed across-the-board cut to
government ministries, and that the Finance Ministry must find other sources of
The criticism against the proposed cuts to government ministries
continued to generate criticism throughout the day.
cut will only continue to harm the weaker sectors – it is a matter of political
cowardice,” opposition chairwoman Tzipi Livni said during a meeting held with
local government representatives later in the day.
During Labors’ weekly
faction meeting, the lawmakers were even more forceful, attacking not just the
cuts, but also Netanyahu’s package deal that was supposed to relieve some of the
pressure on consumers.
MK Amir Peretz described the prime minister’s
price breaks as “an attempt to defraud the public,” and said that the struggle
against the rising cost of living should be coordinated among the relevant
social organizations, including the Histadrut labor federation.
during Likud’s faction meeting, Netanyahu told MKs that “Israel relies on its
economic stability; Israel is an island of economic stability,” and thanked his
faction members for speaking in support of the administration’s price-cut
Outside the Knesset, social rights activist Tami Molad told The
that the emergency measures to tackle sharp rises in the costs of
basic commodities are merely a band aid covering the real socioeconomic issues
facing the country.
Molad was one of many social rights activists from a
large group of NGOs that participated in a one-day symposium called to protest
the government’s approach to the economy.
Those present at Monday’s
gathering included representatives of the Association for Civil Rights in
Israel; Rabbis for Human Rights; Osim Shinui (Making Change); Shatil, the social
rights branch of the New Israel Fund; the Israel Center for Social Justice; the
Black Panther movement; and the Social- Economic Academy, a nonprofit
organization that discusses economic, social and environmental
“The prime minister’s press conference on Thursday did not
address the basic problems such as housing, rising education costs and the
disappearing middle class,” Molad said, explaining that the NGOs are calling for
the government to entirely overhaul its economic philosophy.
economy is booming, but the people are not benefiting,” she
continued. “Netanyahu does not see the citizens of this country, he only
looks at the big picture. There are so many people who are working but who
cannot make ends meet. The social and economic gaps between people are getting
bigger and bigger.”
Molad said that a host of social rights groups and
activists planned to demonstrate near the Tel Aviv Museum on Rehov Shaul
Hamelech at 7 p.m. on Tuesday night, to show their discontent for the
government’s economic approach.
“At the moment, all we see is that
reducing the cost of gasoline and water will come at the cost of budgets
allocated to education, housing and welfare,” she said. “In the end, the average
citizen will still pay more and end up with less.”