Treasury pulls out of Knesset session on tobacco taxes

“More than 8,000 Israelis die each year because of tobacco, but the government dillydallies on a life-and-death matter.”

December 4, 2017 20:05
1 minute read.
israeli soldiers smoking cigarettes

Silhouetted Israeli soldiers from the Home Front Command Unit take a smoking break during an urban warfare drill inside a mock village at Tze'elim army base in Israel's Negev Desert June 11, 2017. (photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)

The Finance Ministry refused at the last minute to allow its representatives to take part in the Knesset Drugs Committee discussion on Monday of the taxation of tobacco products.

Committee chairman MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) said that “if Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon’s policy is not to raise [tobacco] taxes even when it endangers human life, he must come to the committee to present his position and face public criticism.”

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Zandberg halted the discussion when Treasury director-general Shai Babad announced 10 minutes before the opening of the session that he would refrain from sending his representatives to discuss the minister’s refusal to equalize taxes on various tobacco products.

“It seems that the finance minister’s policy is to refrain from reporting to the public on any issue with which he is not comfortable. This shows contempt for the Knesset and is a significant blow to our work,” she said. “Minister Kahlon is not ready to face public and professional criticism of his refusal to equalize taxes on various tobacco products, and once again chooses to avoid responsibility for Israeli health.”

Zandberg announced that in view of the significant and repeated damage to the relations between the government and the Knesset, she would appeal to the Kahlon, the cabinet secretariat and the Knesset speaker, and demand that the Treasury be told that the officials’ conduct was unprecedented and unacceptable.

“The government is already in control of bills through the Ministerial Committee on Legislation. The least they can do is come and answer MKs’ questions, said Likud MK Yehudah Glick, who initiated the discussion. “The public should be informed that the government is contemptuous of the public and the Knesset,” he said. “This comes after a bill on the matter was ditched in the ministerial committee because they want to wait for [former health minister Ya’acov] Litzman to come back to his post for he will get credit for such a law.”

“More than 8,000 Israelis die each year because of tobacco, but the government dillydallies on a life-and-death matter,” Glick concluded.

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