Steinitz condemns lack of stability in Israeli gov't

Finance minister says Israel should consider changing electoral system; Gafni: Elections will cost state NIS 400 million.

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz 311 R (photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz 311 R
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
Israel must change its system of government and increase stability, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Tuesday, in what can be seen as the opening shot of the Likud’s election campaign.
“This economy needs stability and governability,” Steinitz explained. “I am proud of our achievements, but I want to say that after my perspective of three years as finance minister, we need to ensure the future in a way that makes us more stable.”
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has famously said “the finance minister speaks in my voice,” and as such, Steinitz’s words were the first indication of the Likud’s position on elections from a senior minister.
Early elections have yet to be announced, but nearly every party in the Knesset has called for them to take place, and government ministers’ speeches indicate that it is simply a matter of time and that elections will most likely occur between August and October.
Steinitz spoke in the Knesset Finance Committee, where he gives a quarterly review of his ministry’s work, and said that this was probably his last review in the current Knesset.
The finance minister pointed out that in the last 25 years, elections have always been held early, a phenomenon that “cannot be ignored.”
According to Steinitz, lack of governability has adversely affected the US and Euro bloc economies.
“Either changing the parliamentary system or moving to a presidential system will increase our stability and governability,” he said. “We need to think hard and make changes. I hope the next Knesset will do so.”
Knesset Finance Committee chairman Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) also spoke out against holding the vote before its current planned date, October 22, 2013.
“Apparently, we’re going to elections because there is an atmosphere of suspicion between the prime minister and foreign minister,” Gafni said.
“According to the polls, nothing dramatic will happen, and the top party will not be replaced.”
According to the UTJ MK, though “nothing dramatic” will happen politically, the market will suffer. In addition to NIS 400 million of the state budget being spent on elections “that no one is able to explain why we’re having,” billions of shekels will be lost because reforms will be stopped and may never continue, he explained.
“There is no good reason in the world to hold [early] elections,” he insisted, adding that “the people who will be harmed are those who learn Torah.”
Gafni pointed out that protecting the status of yeshiva students’ exemption from military service was part of the coalition agreement, and accused the Likud and other parties of backing out of agreements when it became trendy.
“I wish everyone luck, but I will keep working until the end of my term. Politicians may fight, but someone has to run the country,” he quipped.
Steinitz also gave an overview of the economy in the Finance Committee meeting, debunking claims that unemployment had jumped nearly 1.5 percent.
The increase from 5.6% to 7% unemployment is a technical change, due to the way the statistics are measured, he explained.
In addition, he said there had been a significant increase in the number of people participating in the workforce in recent months, particularly in the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) and Arab sectors.
Steinitz said there had been positive trends in the first months of 2012, to a surprising extent.
As he presented the two-year budget report to Gafni, Steinitz said he hoped the biannual format would continue.
The Finance Committee began with a surprise birthday celebration, in which Steinitz brought a cake and a gift to Gafni, who turned 60 on Tuesday.
“Thank you for your sense of humor and sharp mind,” Steinitz said. “We all appreciate you and wish you many more years in the Knesset.”
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said UTJ was privileged to have a brilliant politician like Gafni, who brought honor to the Knesset.