irrigation water 248.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Social welfare professionals immediately responded Wednesday to the proposal by the National Investigation Committee on the Water Crisis in Israel to increase water prices, claiming that any hike in costs could be seriously harmful to Israel's weaker socio-economic groups.
In a statement from his office, Minister of Welfare and Social Services Isaac Herzog said that he had already called on the government to immediately postpone any price increase at least until the spring and demanded that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu hold an emergency meeting to discuss the proposal.
Several social rights groups joined forces with the Social Worker's Union to form a united front against the proposal to increase costs.
"From the information that we have gathered and passed on to the heads of the Water Authority in Israel, any increase in water costs could have a seriously harmful effect on society's weakest groups," Ran Melamed, deputy director of social empowerment NGO Yedid and Itzik Perry, head of the Social Worker's Union wrote in a joint statement. "We feel that in addition to the decision to increase water costs there should be consideration to the fact that certain groups in society will be forced to chose between paying for either water and electricity or purchasing food staples and medicine."
The two demanded that the decision on whether to increase water costs be made a transparent process whereby government officials and professionals are both involved in finding a solution.
Deputy Minister for Senior Citizens Lea Ness also slammed the decision to raise water prices, claiming that the elderly would be the worst hit by such a decision.
"It is unacceptable that pensioners will now have to choose between paying their water bill or buying medicine," said the deputy minister, adding that everything possible had to be done not to increase the tax on water, especially for the country's older citizens.
Also on Wednesday, the Knesset struck down a bill that would have canceled the Drought Levy. The bill, proposed by Kadima Faction chairwoman Dalia Itzik, was viewed even by many of its supporters as merely symbolic and was soundly defeated in a roll-call vote. Nevertheless, shortly following the defeat Kadima officials said that they would find ways to revive the bill or similar legislation.
Kadima reiterated its complaint that "the Netanyahu government has chosen to grossly stick its hands into the public's pockets, while trampling the middle class and the weak sectors of society in favor of big and wasteful finance."