MK Zvulun Kalfa (Bayit Yehudi) slammed the government on Sunday for failing to provide adequate protective spaces for southern farmers, who are unable to work securely amid the ongoing rocket attacks.
“The Defense Ministry is forfeiting the lives of the farmers,” said Kalfa, who is the chairman of the Knesset’s agricultural lobby. “The abandonment of agricultural lands in the midst of harvest will cause huge economic damage and even shortages of agricultural products.”
As part of the NIS 417 million economic benefits plan approved by the government on Sunday for Sderot and the Gaza perimeter towns, residents became eligible for a 24% property tax rate for agriculture as well as a 15% boost in ability to hire foreign workers. Nonetheless, Kalfa criticized the Defense Ministry for objecting to the allocation of NIS 3.5 million that would enable the placement of about 100 shelters in the area’s agricultural zones.
Kalfa said that the Defense Ministry is refusing to provide this budget despite requests from the Agriculture Ministry.
“Iron Dome provides protection to built-up areas, but most of the agricultural lands have no protection,” he continued.
“These days, in the midst of the harvest, farmers are performing the picking routine daily, but due to the size of the area, it is impossible to run to protected spaces during an alert.”
The requested NIS 3.5m., he explained, would provide protected spaces for some 800 farmers and workers. Any person cultivating these areas now is “exposed to life threatening” conditions, Kalfa said.
In response, the Defense Ministry said that “sheltering farmers in the South has always been the responsibility of the Agriculture Ministry.” “The Agriculture Ministry is the one that took care of, for example, to distribute hundreds of shelters to farmers during Operation Cast Lead and Operation Pillar of Defense, with the system of the security system,” the Defense Ministry said.
The Property Tax Authority is responsible for providing the initial response to citizens who have experienced property damage during the operation.
Tax Authority teams have been operating in the South and Gush Dan regions to assess damage and explain to victims their rights, as well as how to fill out claim forms, the authority said. As of Sunday, 16 claims for agricultural damage, all in the South, had been received.
As far as compensation outside the government is concerned, representatives of the Kanat Insurance Fund for Natural Risks in Agriculture said that the fund insures only against natural disasters, and that “the damage at the moment is not included in the framework of natural disasters.”