Opposition denounces government for continued rise in poverty levels

Kahlon, Deri blame Lapid, citing cuts to child allotments.

Lapid and Kahlon (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Lapid and Kahlon
Members of the opposition strongly denounced the government over the increases in the rate of poverty as reported in the annual poverty report on Wednesday, attributing specific responsibility to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his failure to deal with the problem during his time in office.
In turn, however, senior members of the government, including Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Periphery Minister Arye Deri, blamed Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid for the reported increase in poverty in the report for 2014, citing the cuts to the monthly National Insurance Institute child allotments made by Lapid as finance minister in the last government as one of the primary causes of increased poverty.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog of the Zionist Union said that Netanyahu was not interested in the issue of poverty, and demanded that a national investigative committee be established to examine why poverty continues to increase.
“Poverty is a war with hundreds of thousands of victims and Netanyahu must give an accounting on this,” said Herzog. “Netanyahu is the one who reduced entire sectors of the population to poverty in 2003 and did it again in 2013 and onwards with his world view of swinish economics at the expense of the weak in society. A government headed by me would make dealing with poverty the primary issue on the national agenda.”
Meretz chairman Zehava Gal- On, while not sparing Lapid, was also quick to attribute blame to the prime minister, saying that he had done nothing to alleviate the problem in his almost 10 years as prime minister over his two separate tenures.
“A decade of Netanyahu and two years of Lapid have brought us to an embarrassing and shameful pinnacle for poverty statistics,” said Gal-On.
“A reality in which Israeli citizens are the poorest in the West and in which one in every four children lives in poverty is no less than a national emergency. These statistics are the result of destructive policies which lack thought and heart, of a government which has completely abandoned its obligations towards its citizens.”
She also criticized government members who have “flown the flag of concern for the ‘invisible people,’” a reference to Deri, for taking steps to reduce poverty which she derided as “cosmetic changes” which would not improve the situation of poor families, and especially the working poor.
Meanwhile, MK Haneen Zoabi of the Joint List accused the government of intentionally discriminating against the Arab sector in the distribution of budgetary payments which she said have impoverished the community.
“It cannot be argued that poverty has grown despite the national effort [to combat it], when the rate of poverty in the Arab sector has been on the rise for 15 years,” she said. “The opposite is true, we’re talking about a conscious effort of the state to distribute the budget in an unequal manner.
The majority of the budget goes to Jewish cities, especially in the center of the country. The poverty is first and foremost Arab poverty and after that poverty of the periphery.”
In their responses to the accusations of the opposition, both Kahlon and Deri focused on the cuts to child allotments as the main driving factor in the 2014 poverty increases. The report itself stated that the cuts to the monthly payments had contributed to increases in poverty for families with children, although the specific poverty rate for this group rose by just 0.3 percentage points over 2013.
“The previous government is responsible for the increase in the rate of poverty,” said Kahlon.
“The cuts to child allotments is what brought a significant increase in the rate of poverty.
We repaired this injustice in the current budget when we restored the child allotments [to previous levels] and added NIS 600 million for the elderly.”
The finance minister also said that the government had implemented many aspects of the recommendations made by the War on Poverty Committee, spending some NIS 5 billion in the 2015- 2016 budget to help remedy the problem.
Deri blamed Yesh Atid Lapid for the cuts in child allotments, adding that steps he urged the current government to take, including increasing the minimum wage and child welfare allotments, along with financial measures to come, were designed to reduce poverty.
Said Deri, “The poverty report for 2014 shows that there was an increase in poverty in 2014 for families, individuals, children and the elderly. There was also an increase in [financial] inequality, and a significant increase in the poverty rate in the haredi sector and the Arab sector.