Israel must change its system of government and increase stability, Finance
Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Tuesday, in what can be seen as the opening shot
of the Likud’s election campaign.
“This economy needs stability and
governability,” Steinitz explained. “I am proud of our achievements, but I want
to say that after my perspective of three years as finance minister, we need to
ensure the future in a way that makes us more stable.”
Binyamin Netanyahu has famously said “the finance minister speaks in my voice,”
and as such, Steinitz’s words were the first indication of the Likud’s position
on elections from a senior minister.
Early elections have yet to be
announced, but nearly every party in the Knesset has called for them to take
place, and government ministers’ speeches indicate that it is simply a matter of
time and that elections will most likely occur between August and
Steinitz spoke in the Knesset Finance Committee, where he gives
a quarterly review of his ministry’s work, and said that this was probably his
last review in the current Knesset.
The finance minister pointed out that
in the last 25 years, elections have always been held early, a phenomenon that
“cannot be ignored.”
According to Steinitz, lack of governability has
adversely affected the US and Euro bloc economies.
“Either changing the
parliamentary system or moving to a presidential system will increase our
stability and governability,” he said. “We need to think hard and make changes.
I hope the next Knesset will do so.”
Knesset Finance Committee chairman
Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) also spoke out against holding the vote
before its current planned date, October 22, 2013.
going to elections because there is an atmosphere of suspicion between the prime minister and foreign minister,” Gafni said.
to the polls, nothing dramatic will happen, and the top party will not be
According to the UTJ MK, though “nothing dramatic” will happen
politically, the market will suffer. In addition to NIS 400 million of the state
budget being spent on elections “that no one is able to explain why we’re
having,” billions of shekels will be lost because reforms will be stopped and
may never continue, he explained.
“There is no good reason in the world
to hold [early] elections,” he insisted, adding that “the people who will be
harmed are those who learn Torah.”
Gafni pointed out that protecting the
status of yeshiva students’ exemption from military service was part of the
coalition agreement, and accused the Likud and other parties of backing out of
agreements when it became trendy.
“I wish everyone luck, but I will keep
working until the end of my term. Politicians may fight, but someone has to run
the country,” he quipped.
Steinitz also gave an overview of the economy
in the Finance Committee meeting, debunking claims that unemployment had jumped
nearly 1.5 percent.
The increase from 5.6% to 7% unemployment is a
technical change, due to the way the statistics are measured, he
In addition, he said there had been a significant increase in
the number of people participating in the workforce in recent months,
particularly in the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) and Arab sectors.
said there had been positive trends in the first months of 2012, to a surprising
As he presented the two-year budget report to Gafni, Steinitz
said he hoped the biannual format would continue.
The Finance Committee
began with a surprise birthday celebration, in which Steinitz brought a cake and
a gift to Gafni, who turned 60 on Tuesday.
“Thank you for your sense of
humor and sharp mind,” Steinitz said. “We all appreciate you and wish you many
more years in the Knesset.”
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said UTJ was
privileged to have a brilliant politician like Gafni, who brought honor to the
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