Benny Gantz (L) and Yair Lapid (R) at a press conference, March 21st, 2019.
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)
Blue and White Party co-leaders Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid vowed on Thursday to invest billions of extra shekels in health, education and transportation, should they form the next government.
“We have a team of 100 experts who are building plans for us in a way that we can immediately implement upon our entry into power,” said Gantz, unveiling the party’s financial and social manifesto.
Promising to tackle the overcrowding in Israel’s hospitals, the co-leaders said they would invest NIS 12.5 billion in an effort to shorten waiting times in emergency rooms and hospitalization procedures.
“We will add 2,000 hospital beds, increase the number of available positions, front-line emergency rooms, reward doctors, expand and establish two hospitals in the North and South. We want to start with quick processes and, in parallel, commence larger operations,” said Gantz.
Alongside security, Gantz said, education is the most important sector in the country and promised to introduce new programs from birth to three years old.
“Not to require three years of babysitting, but to commence teaching in the earliest stages so parents can save 30,000 shekels,” said Gantz, promising an investment of NIS 1b. in education. “We will immediately change the direction Israel’s children are heading in.”
Regarding transportation, Gantz said the party will establish a transportation “cabinet,” bringing together all the relevant entities to reduce traffic by a margin of 10% and improve public and shared transportation infrastructure.
“Education is expensive and buying an apartment is an impossible challenge,” said Lapid.
“All of this must be corrected quickly and [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu does not consider the citizens at all. He is preoccupied only with himself, but our priorities are the citizens of Israel. We will lead change and work hard for them and for their children, and for life in the State of Israel.”
Despite the promised additional investments, Gantz added that the party does not intend to raise taxes but rather find the funding from existing resources. Finances can be raised, he said, by fighting corruption, investing profits from offshore gas fields and cutting unnecessary and ineffective ministries.
Before the press conference even started, the Likud Party issued a statement attacking Gantz and Lapid’s party for their failure to bring Histadrut Labor Union Secretary-General Avi Nissenkorn, fifth place on their list, to the event.
“It is disappointing that Lapid and Gantz forgot to bring their finance minister Avi Nissenkorn from the Histadrut to the conference, who will shut down the state twice a week and return us to the Histadrut economy, which will harm competition and raise prices,” Likud said in a statement.
Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu Party was also quick to criticize Nissenkorn’s absence at the press conference.
“Another show by the Blue and White Party, making sure to keep Nissenkorn away from the public eye when presenting their economic platform,” Kulanu said.
Responding to the parties, Gantz answered that Nissenkorn is “a man with great financial and social awareness.”
“He is committed to economic changes in the State of Israel and isn’t here to defend any large committees. He is an honest and decent man who understands economics and the market, as well as labor relations,” Gantz said.
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