Knesset to hold emergency session on budget cuts

Herzog: Lapid’s ‘Mrs. Cohen’ is not the real middle class; Shas calls on finance minister to take care of the poor.

Knesset MKs at plenum 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Knesset MKs at plenum 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
The Knesset will hold an emergency discussion of expected budget cuts and statements by Finance Minister Yair Lapid, after Labor faction chairman Isaac Herzog gathered the requisite signatures Tuesday to call a meeting during the Knesset’s recess.
A date for the meeting has yet to be set, but Herzog showed the 50 signatures to Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, who acquiesced to the request to have a plenum discussion on the budget.
“I suggest that the finance minister not only speak to Mrs. Cohen from Hadera, but also to Mr. [Meir] Cohen, the welfare minister, and get from him data about the distribution of income in this country and the serious social gaps,” Herzog said.
On Monday, Lapid described on his Facebook page a theoretical 37-year-old woman named Ricki Cohen who, together with her husband, earn NIS 20,000 per month to support their three children.
Lapid said that the state should consider the education it provides the Cohens’ children (which he said should include longer school days), the quality of services at government offices, ineffective police and lack of competition in the financial sector. He lamented the health system he said was crumbling, the lack of a unified public transportation payment system and the fact the Cohen children were considering whether they even wanted to live in Israel when they grew up.
Though the Cohens have an apartment and travel abroad every other year, Lapid said, they would not be able to afford to buy an apartment for one of their kids when they grew up.
The Finance Ministry should work to increase Mrs.
Cohen’s quality of life and reduce her cost of living, he continued.
Herzog criticized Lapid on Tuesday, saying that “there are many Mrs. Cohens who barely make NIS 5,000 and cannot finish the month.
That is the real middle class.”
According to a 2012 Bank of Israel report, prices of goods and services such as housing, food, electricity, gas, and water increased faster than income for the middle class between 2007 and 2010.
“I congratulate the finance minister who, within two weeks, managed to eradicate poverty and move on to the next group of needy people who make NIS 20,000 per month,” Shas leader Eli Yishai said sarcastically of Lapid’s statement.
Yishai called for Lapid to travel outside of the “Hadera- Gedera” borders, saying that “NIS 20,000 per month is the wet dream of a million poor people.”
“Lapid must be concerned with the welfare of all Israeli citizens, not just his voters,” the Shas MK added. “A million poor people, as well as other population groups, cannot be excluded and ignored.
That will not solve the problem, it will make it worse.”
According to Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On, Lapid spent the last two weeks writing on Facebook and surrounding himself with right-wing advisers that want to destroy the welfare state and benefit the rich.
“Lapid knows how to use new media and talks about new politics, but names like Uri Yogev, who he is considering appointing as Finance Ministry director-general, are the oldest politics possible,” Gal-On wrote on Facebook.
“Yogev and the other economists surrounding Lapid are directly responsible for the dramatic rise in inequality in the last 10 years and the continued wear on the middle class.”
The Meretz chairwoman wrote that Yogev is close with Netanyahu and lowered taxes for the wealthy while decreasing welfare services.
“The new-old advisers Lapid is appointing will ensure that the massive deficit that they created will be covered by the weaker sectors of society and the real middle class, and the Finance Ministry will continue serving the same group of wealthy people,” she added.
Meanwhile, Yesh Atid MK Ofer Shelah defended Lapid, saying the finance minister was simply trying to put a human face on economic discussions.
“People can cling to one detail or another, but what’s important is to remember that this is a discussion of everyone’s future and quality of life,” Shelah told Army Radio.
Niv Elis contributed to this report.