In a rare show of support for a decision made by the previous government, Environmental Protection Minister Idit Silman (Likud) opposed the government's decision on Sunday to cancel the tax on plasticware that the previous government instituted, on the grounds that the tax led to a sharp drop in consumption and was therefore good for the environment.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved Silman's request at the cabinet meeting to work with Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich in order to find an "appropriate substitute" within six months that will decrease plasticware consumption without levying a tax.
Smotrich announced on Sunday that the government has approved his campaign promise to cancel the tax, which is expected to bring down the price of plasticware after it rose when the tax was first instituted in November 2021. The move then was viewed by some in the haredi sector as being a "decree" against them specifically, since they are Israel's highest consumers of plasticware.
"A proper alternative to the cancellation of the tax must be found in order to find an adequate solution for all the populations in Israel."Environmental Protection Minister Idit Silman
"We promised and fulfilled the promise. I call on all the citizens of Israel to check with retailers and grocery stores that the price decreases. The fight against the high cost of living is a collective struggle," Smotrich said.
Silman countered in the cabinet meeting that she was "aware of the coalition agreements and the commitment of the ministers to adhere to them", but that "in recent weeks I looked deeply into the matter and was exposed to the enormous damage of plasticware to all of the environmental and medical aspects."
Silman pointed out that the tax had worked, writing in a statement that sales decreased by 39% between when the tax came into effect in November 2021 and the end of 2022.
Silman wrote that "a proper alternative to the cancellation of the tax must be found in order to find an adequate solution for all the populations in Israel (such as subsidizing dishwashers in an extensive way as the ministry did in kindergartens for NIS 45 million and other ways that have been suggested). The taxation was successful and led to a significant reduction in the consumption of disposable utensils in the State of Israel."
"The use of economic tools in general and taxation tools, in particular, express the principle that the 'polluter pays', and encourage the reduction of environmental damage," Silman added.
Silman leans over party lines
Silman's comments were a rare admission to the effectiveness of a move made by the previous government. Many other ministries already cancelled or are in the process of cancelling reforms by the previous government, such as a similar tax on soft drinks; the Kashrut reform and the "kosher cell phones" reform, both of which were intended to increase competition in the respective religious services; a reform in the study of humanities in high schools, and more.
The government has continued a number of moves that the previous government implemented but without admitting to doing so publicly. These include Operation Safe Track to fight crime in the Arab sector, Operation Break the Wave to fight terror in the West Bank and more.
United Torah Judaism MK and Knesset Finance Committee chairman Moshe Gafni blessed the cancellation of the tax, which he called the "Liberman tax" and claimed that it "was intended first and foremost to harm the haredi sector."
"This was one of our promises upon forming the government, and indeed last week we passed in the finance Committee the budgetary source to cancel the tax. The tax was cancelled and I am happy about this," Gafni said.
Former environmental protection minister Tamar Zandberg said in response, "The new government enabled petty politics to destroy the environment and health. Instead of moving forward, this decision takes us light-years backwards. Other than a finger in the eye, the cancellation of the tax will only contribute to pollution and disease."