(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yair Lapid are tearing the delicate fabric of Israeli society, opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Labor) said Sunday, as ministers authorized budget cuts in all ministries except defense.
"The cuts that Netanyahu and Lapid initiated in welfare, health and education are very severe," Herzog said. "With one hand, they're budgeting aid to Gaza border towns and they're cutting it with the other."
According to Herzog, it was customary for many years not to cut the welfare and health budget even when other ministries had to reduce spending.
"The prime minister and finance minister are harming the weakest links in the Israeli public, the needy and the periphery. It cannot be that we just finished the [military] campaign, bruised and aching, and the government is hurting the public even more. We will fight this with all our might," Herzog added.
MK Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) wrote on Facebook that it is "insane that only poor people and the lower-middle class are paying for Operation Protective Edge. Once again, the government is putting its hands in the pockets of those who don't have anything, because it's easy. Shame!"
Shas leader Arye Deri said the budget cuts are "scandalous and audacious."
"Instead of cutting tax benefits for the rich and the huge budget for the upper class, the government of the rich chose to take from the second Israeli, from the people whose voices are not heard," he stated.
Deri called on ministers to vote against the cuts and "not allow the weaker classes be trampled."
MK Eli Yishai (Shas) pointed out that Yesh Atid was voted in by supporters of the 2011 social protests, and said the party's policies will likely spark another round of demonstrations.
"If there is an anti-welfare budget, Protective Edge won't be the last operation the Finance Ministry will have to deal with," he stated, adding that his party will fight the planned budget cuts. "It cannot be that once again the weak and the middle class will have to foot the bill."
Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On said Lapid's plan to cut most ministries' budgets to fund the military operation shows that he does not know how to budget properly.
"Instead of canceling tax exemptions or demanding the defense system become more efficient, he is going on the easy and cruel solution that will destroy what is left of social services in Israel," she said.
According to Gal-On, cutting the education budget is "giving the bill for OPE to all of our children and grandchildren. Using OPE to squeeze out more and more funds while not giving a response to tough questions like what the money is meant for and whether it was used appropriately, is a years-old tradition for the Defense Ministry. The public should know that ever shekel that is not cut from the defense budget is instead of giving our children a quality education," she said.