Finance Minister Yair Lapid.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
There is no coalition crisis over the budget, Finance Minister Yair Lapid said Thursday, but he listed conditions for him to stay in the government.
“We need to give Israeli citizens a break and not raise taxes; we cannot continue milking that cow,” Lapid said at a Yesh Atid faction meeting in Tel Aviv. “It won’t happen, and if it is forced, then we won’t sit in the government anymore.”
Lapid did not specify who would force a tax raise, but he and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu have been unable to reach an agreement on a framework for the budget.
At the same time, Lapid insisted: “We are not in a crisis.”
The minister said that the defense budget should be increased and that the army clearly needs more funds after Operation Protective Edge.
However, he added, “We need to be responsible and wake care of everyone who needs an education, welfare, health, and housing with 0% VAT after a long war.”
Lapid’s comments came a day after his ministry rejected a tax, reportedly proposed by Netanyahu’s office, on those who own multiple homes, which would bring in NIS 2.5b in revenue without touching the middle class.
Netanyahu wants to raise the defense budget by as much as NIS 11b., a 17.5 percent increase that Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said is necessary.
Lapid does not want to raise taxes and is pushing forward his flagship 0% VAT on housing legislation, which Finance Ministry officials said would cost NIS 3b., but Lapid said would cost NIS 1.3b.
Meanwhile, the Bank of Israel warned that increasing the deficit too much can destabilize the economy.
Lapid also addressed the so-called “Poor Soldiers’ Letter,” sent by dozens of soldiers from underprivileged families asking the army to increase their pay so they can buy food.
“It cannot be that someone who fights for Israel then goes home hungry,” Lapid declared. “We will take care of them, one by one, and eradicate the phenomenon.”
The finance minister said care for soldiers must be part of the defense budget.