MKs visit Sderot to show solidarity

Lawmakers consider tax exemptions to ease town's financial burdens.

sderot mayor moyal298 88 (photo credit: Channel 1 [file])
sderot mayor moyal298 88
(photo credit: Channel 1 [file])
Politicians visited beleaguered Sderot to express solidarity Wednesday, as the town returned to relative normalcy after a day of power outs and blockades. The disruption was caused when residents demonstrated Tuesday against the government for allowing the rocket attacks to continue. Members of the Knesset Finance Committee spoke with residents and demonstrators, before meeting Mayor Eli Moyal and offering tax exemptions to ease Sderot's financial burdens. Residents say thousands of Kassam rockets have led to a steep economic downturn in the working-class town, with many scared to stray far from the safety of the security rooms in their homes. Finance Committee chairman Moshe Kahlon said he told Moyal the committee would consider exempting town residents from VAT. They also discussed other economic incentives to help those who have suffered financially, physically or emotionally from rocket attacks, he said. Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai announced he would move his office to Sderot on Sunday and said he would also request that the cabinet's weekly Sunday meeting be held there. In another sign of solidarity, the Betar Jerusalem soccer club announced it would begin its training on Wednesday for next season at a Sderot field that had recently been damaged by a Kassam attack. But Moyal said he told Kahlon the town's financial situation was a lesser priority than providing a solution that would bring security to the townspeople. "Even if you give me NIS 100 billion right now, I still can't quiet one hysterical mother or one baby that cries at night," Moyal said. "What I ask for today is quiet for Sderot, that the government will come and announce a way to bring quiet." He said Tuesday's protests had been successful in attracting media attention to the town, but demonstrations would continue to pressure the government to find a solution to the rocket fire. On Sunday he would begin marching toward Jerusalem and set up a protest tent outside the prime minister's residence, he said. Outside the tent would be signs, to be updated daily, displaying the number of rockets that have landed, the number of killed and those wounded. But following visits this week from President Moshe Katsav and Defense Minister Amir Peretz, himself a town resident, Moyal said he'd decided to return the town to routine, cancelling plans to strike and barricade the town, and re-opening schools he'd declared would stay closed until the end of the summer recess. Kahlon visited the town Wednesday morning accompanied by Yitzhak Galanti, Yoram Marciano and Yitzhak Ziv, all members of his committee. He said he listened to the residents' complaints and heard how incomes had been reduced indirectly due to rocket attacks. "There is a lack of consideration from the government, as if everything is okay here, as if you can compare Sderot to Petah Tikva and Haifa," Kahlon said. He said he understood Moyal's reluctance to discuss economics. Moyal felt "that the government isn't providing security, and the townsfolk feel the government has no plan," Kahlon said. "But life must continue... to provide a feeling of security we also need to emphasize the economic aspect." But Kahlon said it was only a matter of time until the government would be forced to act against Palestinian firing rockets from northern Gaza. "I think the question is whether the government will act before, or after there is a disaster. I just hope they will act before, but I'm afraid it will be after."