The drought levy approved by the Knesset over three months ago was called into question on Thursday, when Kadima Faction Chairwoman Dalia Itzik placed a bill on the table that would cancel the much-disparaged tax.
"The drought levy is an additional, violent tax that joins a long line of illogical taxes that the government has placed upon the Israeli public," explained Itzik. "The government of Israel's continuation of its war against the middle class and the weak levels of society, and the policy of increasing the tax burden upon the country's citizens, has turned into its only achievement." Pressure against the bill, which was approved as part of the budget package during the Knesset's summer session, continued to increase after the Finance Committee met last week to discuss the controversial legislation. During the meeting, MKs were told that since the legislation was passed, water use had declined and the state had earned NIS 1.2 billion, but concluded with a ruling to call for the repeal of the tax.
Kadima has embraced the topic in recent days and is showing signs of using the tax as a rallying point for the opposition. In recent weeks, a number of Kadima MKs have expressed dissatisfaction with the opposition's lack of direction during the winter Knesset session, and the unpopular tax is a likely target.
In the wake of Itzik's bill, Kadima MKs rushed to blast the tax, which called for a per-person water limit per household. Households exceeding the limits are required to pay heavy penalties.
But the Water Authority defended the levy as an effective tool and slammed the MKs.
"The drought levy is a law enacted by the Knesset, and it is intended to help deal with a serious phenomenon of wasting water and ineffective use of water, especially in light of the global water crisis, which threatens Israel's water sources. The law has proven itself as a highly effective enforcement tool against wasting water, and the evidence - the highest savings in water have come since the law went into effect," the authority declared in a statement.
"To our sorrow, such processes [as some MKs have initiated] harm the complex and difficult national mission to bring about continued savings in water, which require public responsibility and personal examples to achieve. We regret the fact that certain public officials are harming the national mission," it said.
The authority also explained the reasoning behind its raising water prices in January.
"The purpose of the water prices reform is to organize and streamline the water economy in Israel in order to improve infrastructure and make the pricing of water more transparent and fair," it said. "The Water Authority is aware of the public debate in this matter and will continue to work with all of the relevant parties for the good of the water economy."
Water Authority head Prof. Uri Schor has said that increasing prices is necessary to pay for the desalination plants being built along the coast. The idea behind the plants is to provide a regular source of water as rainfall becomes scarcer in the region.