Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called to lead cabinet dedicated to stop rise in prices

A special Knesset meeting took place after a recent wave in food and household prices that upset many.

 A plenum session in the assembly hall of the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, February 2, 2022.  (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
A plenum session in the assembly hall of the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, February 2, 2022.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

A heated debate took place on the floor of the Knesset, as ministers and officials discussed the recent wave of rising prices. Chairman of the Economics Committee, Michael Biton demanded a plan to reduce the cost of living within a month, and called on Prime Minister Bennett to head a special cabinet to tackle the issue.

The special meeting was held at the request of several members of Knesset, including Biton, Naama Lazimi, Yitzhak Pindrus, Aida Touma-Sliman and Gadi Yevarkan. During the meeting, Biton suggested that a special cabinet be created that would feature every economics minister as members, in order to properly address the increasingly relevant issue.

This week, the tariff on electricity usage was raised by 5.7%, alongside an increase in the maximum price of 95 octane gasoline. Biton said the responsible party for the rising cost of living is “the government, for the over-taxation of fuel and reducing market fees, but also the monopolies.”

He proceeded to call out Osem, one of the largest food manufacturers in the country, which recently announced a 5% increase on product costs. Only a few days later, the increase was postponed following pushback from the public and the Finance Ministry.

“[Customers] are loyal to Osem, but is Osem loyal to its [customers]? Probably not,” said Biton. “It extorts prices and distributes record profits. We met the CEO of another company with a salary, bonus and dividends of NIS 30 million in nine months,” he added. “[That money] is taken from the plates of people.”

A woman shops at a supermarket in Jerusalem June 19, 2016.  (credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)A woman shops at a supermarket in Jerusalem June 19, 2016. (credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)

The president of the Manufacturers’ Association, Ron Tomer, fired back, “Since 2011 a new procedure has been created. When the government does not know how to answer the public, it perceives that it is easiest to blame businessmen and turn the fire on them. If we all understand that we are all in one boat, we can strive for a solution.”

The president of the Chambers of Commerce, Uriel Lin, pointed out that "the government itself raises the cost of living.” He noted that the government is increasing the taxes on utilities such as gasoline and electricity, and that such decisions have had a significant impact on the increase in prices. “Where does that tax money come from? From the air? Does [the government] not understand that they are raising the cost of living?”

Another topic brought up during the meeting was the need to inform consumers about less expensive non-name brand alternatives. Willi-Food CEO Erez Winner said consumers can choose products that are not the leading brand, which are cheaper and their quality no less good. He called on the Knesset and the committee to take action to educate the consumer, and said that if they increase the consumption of unbranded products, the cost of living will fall on its own.

Biton concluded and called on the government to present to the committee, within a month, a work plan to combat the cost of living and to strengthen regulators, bringing legislative amendments that will combat the cost of living.

“This painful issue requires integrative treatment led by the prime minister,” he concluded. “The government should do its part regarding over-taxing, over-regulating and opening of markets, and it is the duty of the business sector to act fairly toward consumers.”