Three months after it was passed as part of the Economic Arrangements Bill, Kadima officially declared war Wednesday against the Drought Levy, with party heavy-hitters taking turns bashing the law and its supporters. The afternoon meeting held by Kadima was a rare show of party unity, with chair Tzipi Livni and her main competition for the party's reins MK Shaul Mofaz sitting side by side and both speaking out against the tax.
MK Yoel Hasson blasted the bill as imposing an "aggressive and regressive tax" upon citizens without differentiation between wealthy and poor, and over a dozen MKs offered their criticism, while reading e-mails sent to them by voters in opposition to the tax.
"Water is not a product exclusively for the wealthy," said Livni during the meeting. "The same prime minister who promised before elections to reduce taxes, is placing additional taxes and calling them by all kinds of strange and different names. This tax doesn't even pretend to take care of the problem of Israel's water shortage. It is unjust - there are people who can pay for it and those who can not. It places a burden on the most basic thing, the citizen's ability to use the basic resource necessary for life - water."
During the meeting, which was also attended by representative of gardeners' organizations, animal rights groups, egg producers and local governments, Kadima representatives handed out bumper stickers calling on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to back down from the imposition of the levy, which is supposed to go into effect on the first day of 2010. This activity, however, aroused the ire of the Knesset Guard, who said that they would probe how Kadima operatives managed to smuggle "campaign propaganda" into the building.
It is forbidden to distribute bumper stickers or other materials defined as campaign propaganda within the Knesset compound.
Kadima representatives said that under their party's leadership they hoped a public movement would flourish calling for the repeal of the tax. Kadima, however, is hardly the only Knesset faction to criticize the bill. The tax, which would impose heavy fines upon private residences that exceed a monthly per-person water use limit, has also been challenged by coalition members including MK Miri Regev (Likud) and MK Yariv Levin (Likud). Levin filed a question Wednesday to National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau regarding the possibility that new immigrants might be paying more for water because they did not understand the paperwork they were required to file.
Last week, Kadima representatives, led by MK Ronit Tirosh, launched their first assault against the bill, calling on citizens to protest paying the levy, but they took a step back Wednesday from calls to launch a tax boycott, urging instead that citizens protest within the framework of the law.
In response to growing opposition to the bill, Netanyahu last week called for a review of the law.