Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu attacked critics of his economic policy Sunday, saying they should be complimenting the government for its strong performance rather than suggesting “populist” steps that would damage the economy.

“The data show that the Israeli economy has improved in relation to other economies, and that the standard of living has increased,” Netanyahu said at the weekly cabinet meeting. “So why are there detractors who say we need to change how we divide the pie? They fail to understand that if we deal solely with how to divide the pie and not with how to increase it, we will be left with only crumbs.”

Netanyahu acknowledged that there were still some stumbling blocks in the way of increased growth, naming economic over-concentration and centralized labor unions as two such problems. He said the government would continue to deal with powerful corporations, in apparent reference to a bill currently before the Knesset aimed at prohibiting cross-ownership of large financial and non-financial corporations.

Opposition leader Shelly Yechimovich said Netanyahu’s comments demonstrate that he apparently lives somewhere other than Israel. She said that he was more responsible than anyone for the lagging state revenues, as the tax reforms he initiated while finance minister in 2003 “created a massive NIS 30 million hole” which is now being earned back from the middle class.

“Gaps between rich and poor have expanded to shameful proportions during his tenure,” Yechimovich said. “Whereas things like education, health and personal security used to be afforded to citizens as basic rights – they can now only be obtained through paying huge sums of money. No play on words can cover up the loss of homes and job security being experienced by the Israeli public.”

Meanwhile, the cabinet approved a draft bill to create an agency to assist small and medium-sized businesses. If approved by the Knesset, the authority will be tasked with proposing regulatory steps to remove barriers to the success of Israel’s 450,000 small and medium businesses – which constitute 99 percent of total businesses and employ 55 percent of the total work force.

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