Mofaz talks social justice in first speech atop opposition

"The current cost of living is crushing the young and middle class," says new Kadima head in speech to the Knesset.

Shaul Mofaz, new Kadima leader (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Shaul Mofaz, new Kadima leader
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Newly-elected Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz focused on social issues in his first speech to the Knesset as head of the opposition, leading Likud MKs to challenge his record and accuse him of hypocrisy.
In both a Kadima faction meeting – the first open to the press in months – as well as his speech to the plenum, Mofaz called to lower taxes on gas, water and electricity.
“This government takes so much and gives so little,” he said. “The current cost of living is crushing the young and middle class.”
The opposition leader’s speech was peppered with interruptions from Likud MKs Ofir Akunis and Danny Danon, with Akunis asking Mofaz, “How many social bills have you passed?”
The Kadima leader said Israel had the potential to be a “natural gas superpower” but had yet to build the proper pipelines. Should it do so, Israel would be less reliant on oil, thus lowering energy prices. In addition, he stated, using natural gas would start a new “blue-and-white industry” and create jobs.
Mofaz explained that he planned to propose an alternative budget for 2013 that would respond to the demands of last summer’s social protests.
“Hundreds of thousands of citizens took to the streets last summer, and they have not given up on the dream of creating a new Israel,” the opposition leader stated. “We will back up the protests with actions. There will surely be more demonstrations this summer.”
According to Mofaz, the government has made life more difficult for citizens, which is indicative of failure.
People work hard but cannot reach a reasonable standard of living, he said, describing a new class of “working poor.”
“We will not accept empty promises,” he declared. “We will bring new social justice, equality in the burden and a new social contract.”
Danon interrupted him, calling out “You do not keep your promises!” The Likud MK read aloud a letter Mofaz wrote to Likud members in 2006 that said he would never leave the party. Two days after sending the letter, Mofaz defected to Kadima.
The new opposition leader concluded his speech by putting on a kippa and reading from Psalms.
A rebuttal was given by Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, who began by congratulating Mofaz. He then proceeded to dissect and criticize his speech.
“Mofaz ruined the celebrations by attacking the government,” Sa’ar said. “You are repeating the mistakes of your predecessor [Tzipi Livni] – she was not constructive.
If you follow her path, you will end up where she is.”
In reference to Mofaz’s embrace of social issues, Sa’ar explained that for decades there were two sides in Israeli economic debate: Socialist and capitalist. Now, he said, there’s a third category, the “hitchhiker.” Kadima, Sa’ar explained, is hitching a ride on social protests.
“What is your social record? You were not born yesterday!” he said to Mofaz.
“Your social influence in this Knesset is zero, nothing, not one law.”
Sa’ar also cited Mofaz’s experience as transportation minister, adding that he had made major cuts and did not increase trains to the periphery.
The education minister also called Mofaz’s demands to lower taxes irresponsible, explaining that other countries were making huge cuts in the wake of an international recession, and that Israel could not afford to be reckless.
In conclusion, Sa’ar called Kadima a “caricature of an opposition and a caricature of a political party.”