Finance Minister Yair Lapid must do more to help residents of Gaza border towns, lawmakers on Left and Right said Tuesday, offering various suggestions on how to do so.
Knesset Interior Committee chairwoman Miri Regev (Likud) called for Lapid to cancel value- added tax for residents of the South who want to build safe rooms in their homes.
“The amount of taxes taken from residents of the South for their safe rooms is what separates them from safety,” Regev said. “There is no logic in the government taking advantage of the distress of residents of the South and taking tens of thousands of shekels on every safe room built.”
“This is a mockery,” the Likud MK added.
According to Regev, any other country would have defeated terrorism long ago and would have protected its citizens.
“Take responsibility, like a country should for its residents, and recognize the expense as a necessary one and give people in the South their right to security… They need help more than others,” she said.
Regev’s office estimated that the cost of adding a safe room to a home without one costs NIS 125,000 before VAT, and that only 5 percent of homes built without safe rooms added one, mostly because of the expense.
Meanwhile, MK Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) said the Finance Ministry should pay residents of Gaza border towns who chose to evacuate their homes even before the government’s decision to do so.
Yacimovich responded to a comment by Lapid in an interview on Channel 10 News that the government helped those who wished to evacuate “from the first moment.”
The Labor MK pointed out that the government only decided to pay those who evacuated on August 8, a month after Operation Protective Edge began, and the actual evacuations by the National Emergency Authority only began on August 24.
“What does it mean, practically, that ‘the state said from the first moment that we would help?’ When was aid given, to how many people and how much did it cost?” Yacimovich asked.
“Does your ministry plan to retroactively compensate those who decided to house residents from Gaza border with their own money? Do they plan to retroactively compensate residents who paid to evacuate with their own money, even using all of their savings?” she added.
Finally, Yacimovich asked Lapid for an estimate of how much NGOs, private people and residents of the South spent on the evacuation since the operation began.
MK Nachman Shai (Labor) called for Lapid to extend the payments for indirect damages – from days of work missed and loss of customers – to residents of the South living over 40 km. from the Gaza border.
“The decision to only compensate those living up to 40 km. [away from the border] is an injustice and influences the home front’s strength and that of the whole public,” he said.
“The 40 km. line is an abstract one that does not reflect the reality of the Gaza war.”
Shai said Lapid must “recognize the facts” and compensate for indirect damages beyond that line.
On Monday, Tourism Minister Uzi Landau called for residents living within 40 km from. the Gaza border to be completely exempt from value- added tax.
“While the security cabinet is running the military campaign, there is great importance to the socioeconomic front and this is our moral imperative,” Landau (Yisrael Beytenu) wrote to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Lapid and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett.
Landau wrote that all Israelis should know that the government values their living in all areas of Israel and that the government is with them, keeping them strong, economically and otherwise.
“At this time, we must work on the economic front and not wait for the fighting to end,” he added. “Residents of the South and Gaza border towns deserve economic aid and support, which the government of Israel can give them.”
Landau suggested that the mechanism used to exempt the residents of the south from VAT be similar to that in Eilat.