(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
As a result of Israel’s productive 2016 – and continuing this year with Monday’s purchase of Mobileye – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon agreed to advance plans toward reducing taxes.
The ministers declared their intent to further stimulate the country’s economy, as well as to formulate a joint framework to decrease taxes, a spokesman for Kahlon said. Their Monday meeting followed Kahlon’s announcement on Channel 2’s Meet the Press program on Saturday night that a tax cut is coming.
Kahlon also acknowledged that the cost of living is high, and that surplus funds would not remain in the Finance Ministry’s coffers.
“We are about to reduce taxes,” he said on Meet the Press. “We must return money to the weaker population segments; it will be returned to the public.”
In response to Netanyahu and Kahlon’s agreement on Monday, MK Itzik Shmuli (Zionist Union) said that if a surplus of billions of shekels does in fact exist, the money should be directed toward rehabilitating the country’s social services. He particularly called for the government to use the money to implement nursing care reform and to raise disability and elderly care budgets.
“If we once again take the reckless step of reducing VAT by fractions of a percent that will never be felt, the Israeli public will lose big time,” Shmuli said. “Without the restoration of social services, we will not manage to decrease poverty and the tremendous inequality in Israel.”
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog urged Netanyahu and Kahlon to do more than just lower taxes. Referring to an agreement earlier that day announcing that chip giant Intel would be acquiring Jerusalem’s Mobileye for $15 billion, Herzog called upon the ministers to harness the taxes generated by that forthcoming transaction to launch an emergency public health plan.
“Tax money from this welcome deal can bring full and comprehensive rehabilitation of the collapsing Israeli health system,” Herzog said, citing a need for more hospital beds, subsidized cancer treatments, MRI machine purchases and shortened wait times in emergency rooms.
“The government of Israel must grant Israeli citizens a strong, stable and equitable health system for everyone from every place,” Herzog added.