Meretz respond to gov't's rescue plan: ‘So cheap it’s outrageous’

As Netanyahu’s plan to stabilize Israel’s economy in time of global pandemic is pushed forward, coalition and opposition members respond.

Nitzan Horowitz, the new leader of Meretz, with supporters in Tel Aviv (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Nitzan Horowitz, the new leader of Meretz, with supporters in Tel Aviv
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Israel Katz presented the cabinet with the first part of a NIS 80 b rescue program meant to offer stability to Israel after COVID-19 pushed every fifth person in the country to unemployment.
The plan is meant to offer unemployment benefits until June 2021 or until the unemployment rate drops to 10% from its current 21%. It includes scale aid to businesses to ensure jobs, assurance to purchase Israeli-made goods, and perks to help the elderly and soldiers fresh out of service. 
Presented on Thursday, the plan was not sufficient to prevent an 80,000 strong protest in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on Saturday evening where people carried signs calling it a “war for bread” and voiced their bitterness over what they perceive as the state‘s inability to feel their pain and offer help.
Many among the protesters are business owners who feel they have given to the state for decades paying fairly high taxes and now, when they need a break, the administration is hard of hearing and heavy of heart. 
Netanyahu met with a delegation of protesters on Friday and promised to meet with them weekly to assure better communication, yet the protest went ahead as planned. 
The protest is joined to the Black Flags protest, which is focused on Netanyahu’s indictments for bribery and breach of trust, which took over dozens of bridges over the weekend, and the Social Workers protest that had been going on for over a week. When Katz was headed to a television studio to speak on Meet the Press protesters greeted him with signs that suggested he Meet Reality. 
Social Equality Minister Meirav Cohen said on Sunday that “since this crisis began, promises worth NIS 100 b, had been floated into the air, and we are here to make sure the money will be delivered.” Cohen said her party, Blue and White, is committed to offer a plan with “growth engines and long-term plans.”
 
From what we know of the plan so far, it is focused on offering immediate financial help to those, like tour guides, musicians and restaurant owners, who were badly affected by the Health Ministry’s regulations. Traditionally Israel limited unemployment benefits for a few months with the idea people should be encouraged to seek work.
When asked how he means to fund a year of benefits Netanyahu said on Thursday that Israel’s economy is doing very well and “we should not be afraid to take loans.”
Bank of Israel reported that the cost of the Netanyahu, Katz, "safety net" will be NIS 15 b. in 2020 and NIS 27 b in 2021, however "I want to stress the government has the means to fund the plan", Bank of Israel Governor Amir Yaron wrote in a Sunday press release.
On Meet the Press Katz was asked why he isn't learning from France, where President Emanuel Macron allegedly championed a national vocational training program.
Katz said his plan also includes a path into teaching people new skills that will help them land a job in, for example, digitalization. 
Poalim bank, in cooperation with Hadsai Lev Foundation, reported on Sunday they have already opened a vocational training program that offers its services free of charge, calling it “Israel’s first digital training program”.
Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz said on Sunday that Netanyahu led the nation into the “highest unemployment rate in the West” and called both parts of the Katz plan “outrageously stingy when compared to what is done in the world.” 
“There is money,” he said, “and we’re talking about countries which are poorer than Israel.” 
Bank Leumi reported in a press release that industrial data for France and Italy was "much better than expected " and that the past week offers "further evidence of the financial recovery within the Euro block". 
Leumi also reported a drop in the US unemployment rate, with 1.3 million people seeking work this week, less when compared to early April, when it was 6.7 million per week.
Leumi tied it to the "reopening of the US economy despite the ongoing increase in the number of those infected with coronavirus."