Netanyahu presents new economic plan: A check for every citizen of Israel

Individuals 18 and above to get NIS 750 • Families to be given between NIS 2,000 and 3,000

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks on July 15, 2020 (photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks on July 15, 2020
(photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
Facing mounting criticism over his management of the coronavirus crisis, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Wednesday night an NIS 6 billion handout to the public under which all Israeli citizens will receive a government check. 
According to the plan, families with one child will receive NIS 2,000; families with two children, NIS 2,500; families of three or more, NIS 3,000; and individuals 18 and older will get NIS 750.
“Why do we give out this money? Because we have to get the economy moving,” Netanyahu said. “People are sitting at home. They do not make purchases. When we give them this money, they will buy. It encourages consumption – they will go to buy. And once they go to buy, businesses expand; they have to hire workers.
“This money encourages consumption and employment,” he continued, “and will move the wheels of the economy faster.”
The total cost of the plan is NIS 6 billion, the prime minister said, which is on top of a coronavirus “safety net” plan that he and Finance Minister Israel Katz revealed earlier this week that was approved by the Knesset.
“After this plan is approved, it should be understood that most Israelis will receive this money within days through the National Insurance Institute,” Netanyahu explained. However, he cautioned that he first has to get the support of Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz, who chose not to attend Wednesday night’s briefing.
“It is not clear that we will not have to pass legislation. I expect the coalition to support the plan so that we can transfer it to you, the Israeli citizens,” Netanyahu added. “The emphasis is speed. If we start arguing, this will take a long time. Maybe not months, but weeks.”
Before the briefing, it was reported that all of the professionals in the Finance Ministry were opposed to the plan, especially because not all Israelis need such a benefit. However, the prime minister answered their criticism during the briefing, quoting Hebrew University of Jerusalem economist Prof. Naomi Feldman, who attended Tuesday’s coronavirus advisory committee meeting. She said, according to the prime minister, that it was better to give out funds to a few people that don’t need the money than to delay the process or miss getting it to those who do need it by creating bureaucratic obstacles.
In response, Likud MK Michal Shir tweeted that “there are many people who need the money, but thank God, in the State of Israel, there are also many who do not. I welcome the move, but citizens who do not need it should be allowed to give it up, so that the money goes to places that need it more.”
Ministers in Blue and White called the program “populism instead of real help,” News 13 reported, adding that “any economic strengthening of the citizens of Israel is welcome, but it should be anchored in a responsible and long-term plan that will ensure that next year their livelihood and resilience will be preserved.”
Welfare Minister Itzik Shmuli also criticized the plan, suggesting that “it would be better for helicopters to take that cash and scatter the money where they really need it instead of throwing it from the clouds.”
He added that, so far, some 80,000 business owners have remained outside of the compensation system, lacking emergency budgets for the disabled, at-risk children and the elderly. “Our social workers have been on strike for 10 days,” Shmuli said. “The helicopters need to land on the ground of reality before they all crash.”
Katz spoke after Netanyahu, reiterating the prime minister’s sentiments that the plan will “pump funds rapidly [into the economy], without restrictions.”
He said this new plan is the other arm of the safety net plan; the safety net helps businesses, this plan is meant to support the Israeli people.
“I ask politicians to put politics aside and let us pass this,” Katz concluded. “Give us your trust.”
In contrast, Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg praised Netanyahu’s efforts, saying that “the grant is the right thing to do, and it’s right that it be universal. It will give families money to spend on a shrinking economy and businesses that need it.”