Food charity NGO Latet’s Alternative Poverty Report is part of a left-wing anti- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu campaign, the Likud said on Monday, as politicians across the spectrum chimed in saying more must be done to help the poor.
“The well-timed campaign about the bloated Alternative Poverty Report – which contradicts the real report by the National Insurance Institute on a decrease in poverty – is a transparent attempt by the Left and others in the media to move votes from the Right and Center blocs to the Left,” a Likud spokeswoman said.
“The heads of the Left and [former president] Shimon Peres cannot defeat Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Likud in diplomacy, security or economics,” according to the Likud. “This is their sneaky way to try to move votes from the Right to the Left in order to enact concessions and withdrawals that Shimon Peres has dreamed of all these years.”
Earlier on Monday, Peres called the report an indictment, saying it must be taken seriously.
“The hungry children and elderly people cannot be fed with declarations,” he said. “We are taking our children’s future from them. If we don’t make this issue a priority, we may win battles, but we will lose our children.”
Just as Israel knows to raise money for security and war, it must find funds to take care of the poor, the former president added.
“This election is an opportunity to bring social justice so we will be a nation at peace with itself and with social resilience. All parties must put taking care of poverty as the top priority on their agendas,” he said.
The Likud’s response listed polices passed during Netanyahu’s previous term that helped the poor, including the raising minimum wage in 2011 – which he promised on Sunday to do again after the March 17 election – free education from age three, free dental care until age 12, and lowering cellphone service rates, which is Koolanu leader Moshe Kahlon’s flagship achievement as a Likud minister.
“Those weren’t declarations,” the party spokeswoman said, referring to Peres’s comments. “The only declarations are the baseless slander by the Left against Netanyahu and the Likud. Now, after the declarations against Netanyahu, please tell us what the Left did for the public?” Danny Dayan, a Bayit Yehudi primary candidate and former chairman of the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, pointed out that Peres’s 90th birthday parties lasted for a year, saying the money could have been spent to feed tens of thousands of hungry people, and the President’s Residence’s budget grew to NIS 60 million during Peres’s term.
“Peres is not the person who should teach us what social justice is,” Dayan quipped.
MK Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) said in response to the poverty report that minimum wage must be increased immediately, even if it is ahead of an election, and that Labor and most of the political spectrum would support such a move.
“If there’s one party that opposes it, we should announce it now so its voters will know,” she said.
“We cannot forget that the people who will be better off from this move are those fighting for their survival each day. Half of the poor work, and increasing their pay will save them and their children from hunger and poverty,” she said.
Yesh Atid called the poverty figures a “poor report for the prime ministers,” even though the party’s leader Yair Lapid was finance minister and Yesh Atid’s Meir Cohen was welfare minister until last month.
“After two years of work [by Yesh Atid] to stop the middle class slipping into poverty and to rescue children and the elderly from the cycle of poverty, the prime minister still doesn’t see them and still doesn’t hear their voice,” the party said.
“Netanyahu prefers to transfer hundreds of millions of shekels to isolated settlements in a gesture to the Likud central committee and continues to ignore the plight of Israeli society... Netanyahu prefers a visitor center in Samaria to medication for the elderly, hot meals for schools and funds for children to buy textbooks.”
The party pointed out that, had the Knesset not been dissolved, it would have voted on Lapid’s draft 2015 state budget next week, which Yesh Atid described as “the most social budget for years... which increases the investment in welfare by NIS 2 billion and includes specific programs to lift families out of poverty as well as significant investment in the key social services – education, health and internal security.”
Meretz said the poverty rate is a result of “nearly 50 years of occupation, the settlement enterprise and security control over another nation.”
Only a diplomatic agreement will significantly improve Israel’s economy, eradicate poverty and shrink social gaps, according to Meretz.
The party called the poverty report proof that “Netanyahu’s government failed in every parameter, including taking care of the weaker sectors and lowering the cost of living, and sent tens of thousands of families below the poverty line.”
Koolanu said “it is unacceptable that children go to sleep hungry and the elderly give up on their medications.”
This situation is not Israel’s fate, it is part of “a system in which tycoons and powerful groups turned Israel into a place where a whole generation cannot see the horizon,” and that must be changed, the party said.
Koolanu called to fight the powerful groups and break up market concentration in order to lower the cost of living, decrease poverty and give hope to the younger generation.
MK Orly Levy-Abecassis (Yisrael Beytenu) said the report indicates an acute need to make the war on poverty a national goal for both the departing and the next government.
“The signs of distress have long not been hidden from decision-makers and policy-setters,” she said. “This is a frightening and dangerous situation.
The time has come to leave election slogans behind and start acting. This isn’t the time to form a committee and commit to enacting its findings – one has to stand behind promises and not run from the truth.”
The Forum to Combat Poverty demanded that party leaders commit to fighting poverty, and created posters with Lapid, Kahlon and Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett on them to promote their campaign.
Transportation Minister Israel Katz of the Likud said the National Insurance Institute’s poverty report was what mattered and that NGOs release their own numbers to fit their agendas. The National Insurance Institute report indicated that poverty is down, he noted.Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.