Netanyahu, Katz’s safety net approved in government

‘I can’t take it anymore. How will we pay our bills?’ asks company president of Knesset committee

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sits next to foreign minister Israel Katz during a cabinet meeting (photo credit: REUTERS)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sits next to foreign minister Israel Katz during a cabinet meeting
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Against the backdrop of a dramatic appeal by an out-of-work businesswoman at the Knesset Economics Committee Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Israel Katz gained the cabinet’s approval on Monday for the second part of the 2020-2021 Safety Net program.
The program is meant to offer unemployed Israelis benefits until June 2021, scaled assistance to businesses and vocational training.
Israela Stier-Einstein, president of exhibition company Stier Group, burst into tears on Monday at the Economics Committee panel when Likud MK Osnat Mark accused her and other COVID-19 poverty activists as being “radical Left.”
Mark claimed that when she watched footage from Saturday’s Rabin Square protest, “I did not see the self-employed, I saw the radical Left saying: ‘Anyone but Netanyahu.’”
Mark argued that protesters cannot accept aid from the administration and then march in protest against it, calling it “holding the stick at both ends.”
Einstein broke down and said, “I can’t take it anymore. How will we pay our bills? Pay wages? I can’t start over at my age.”
Einstein is in the position of being banned by the state from working in her field, as conferences and trade shows are currently not being opened while the number of coronavirus-infected patients rises. She complained that she was promised to get clearance to reopen twice and was denied both times at the last moment.
“It was the most disgusting thing she could have said,” Einstein told The Jerusalem Post about Mark’s remark, “I was not in the protest. There were tens of thousands there, people who cannot feed their children.”
Stier Group is one of the largest and oldest firms in the business, producing the annual Isra-Food exhibition among others.
“I did not go to the Knesset for a handout,” she told the Post, “I want to be given the chance to work again... They are turning this nation into a country living on benefits.”
“There are people in government who don’t understand the issues involved, who are dense” Einstein said. “This is what made me cry.”
One million Israelis are facing unemployment, and the Rabin Square protest with 80,000 people rocked the nation as normative Israelis faced the cameras and said they were facing an empty refrigerator, eviction for not paying rent, and the government does not offer aid or guidance.
The plan approved by the cabinet expands the budget by NIS 24 billion, allowing the government to take loans, increase the deficit and offer full benefits until June 2021 or until the unemployment rate drops to 10%. For comparison, the German unemployment rate now is 4%. Israel’s is 21%.
The Israel Tax Authority intends to deliver a grant of up to NIS 7,500 to the self-employed and business owners by Wednesday. However, only 100,000 people will actually get that sum, with lower sums to be given to the rest. The cost of the entire operation is NIS 1.8b. Previous promises of money “delivered at the press of a button,” as Netanyahu said, did not come through.
The plan also includes scaled aid to businesses to ensure jobs, assurance to purchase Israeli-made goods and perks to help the elderly and soldiers fresh out of service.
While almost everyone agrees that now is the time to help Israelis who can’t see a path to making a livelihood by offering them benefits to cover at least their basic needs, not to mention allowing them to purchase services that will help save remaining jobs, the plan lacks so-called “growth engines” and vocational training options.
Katz had spoken about “giving generously” and “spreading a safety net” and even “not leaving anyone behind in the shuffle” on Thursday when he presented the plan. But he did not mention jobs.
Also on Monday, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Finance Ministry said a special task force would be created to promote employment. Unlike other sections in the press release, no budget was included. The task force will be co-led by Prime Minister’s Office acting director-general Ronen Peretz and Finance Ministry director-general Keren Terner Eyal.
On Sunday, Katz said he divides any ideas concerning saving the nation’s economy into four colors: green, yellow, white and red.
Green is for ideas he likes and can be done; yellow are ideas he would like to promote but is unsure if they are feasible; white are ideas that should be talked about at length before implementing, such as increasing the retirement age for women; red are ideas he would not do, such as lowering minimum wage to encourage employers to hire more people, Haaretz reported on Sunday..