Bennett, manufacturers face off in Knesset 'Blue and White Day'

Economy minster salutes industry, saying future of Israel depends on young entrepreneurs.

Knesset "Blue and White Day". (photo credit: YOSSI ZAMIR)
Knesset "Blue and White Day".
(photo credit: YOSSI ZAMIR)
The future of Israel depends on young entrepreneurs, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said during a Knesset conference in honor of “Blue and White Day” saluting industry on Tuesday.
“I salute manufacturers, who lead the country forward and are at the forefront of Zionism. They deserve our thanks,” Bennett said.
“In a changing world, the idea that you can stay in your first workplace until you retire doesn’t exist anymore. We need to compete, and we have the tools to do that as leaders in entrepreneurship,” he said.
Bennett vowed his office will work to block over-regulation that makes industry difficult, calling for the Knesset to consider manufacturers when proposing bills.
“When you talk to me about future generations in industry, I wonder who will be here in a few years,” Israel Manufacturer’s Association director- general Amir Hayek said.
“Property taxes are constantly rising, along with water and electricity prices and salaries for workers. At the same time, regulation strangles industry and government bureaucracy is killing us.”
According to Hayek, manufacturers feel they are taken for granted in Israel and consider investing abroad instead.
Hayek reported to the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee earlier Tuesday that 30 percent of Israeli manufacturers open production lines outside of the country.
“There can’t be new demands and regulations every other day,” Hayek said. “Manufacturers need to know what their costs will be. Every government office complicates things for [local industry] while everything is imported from abroad. We’ve become the world’s garbage can.”
Bennett responded that “sometimes we have disagreements, but I can say one thing for sure, that we’re all working for the good of the State of Israel.”
“I salute industry. You fund the public sector. You create income for the government through taxes, you create work places, and that is important for Zionism,” he said.
“We don’t have money to pay your salaries! You’re not serving the public,” Kalil aluminum systems factory director-general Arye Reichman said to Knesset members, saying he closed production lines in Israel and buys products from abroad.
Reichman also lamented the change Bennett made in his ministry’s name from Industry, Trade and Labor to Economy, saying it shows industry is not his priority.
MK Miki Rosenthal (Labor) made similar comments, and Economy Ministry director- general Yinon Elroi said they still represent industry.
“Not really,” Hayek said. “Not anymore.”
In honor of Blue and White Day, the Knesset displayed an exhibit of vintage posters calling for people to buy Israeli products.
Knesset Blue and White Caucus chairman MK Nachman Shai (Labor) said, “Blue and White Day is a rare opportunity to investigate in-depth Israeli industry and how to move it forward.”
“Blue and White is an economic matter, but it’s also social, national and Zionist.
Every one of us must internalize the need and commitment to our products,” he said.
The Blue and White Department in the Economy Ministry presented a market survey showing 88% of the population prefers to buy Israeli products, and 42% are willing to spend more to do so.
Later on Tuesday, Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On said in the plenum that “blue and white isn’t in the territories. It is here in the State of Israel. Factories in the territories are not part of Israeli industry.”
According to Gal-On, settlement products are “part of the occupation industry” and that buying them means “supporting the occupation.”
“Open a Tanach and see whose land this is,” Bennett responded, “20% of Palestinian industry depends on cooperation with us.”
Bennett said Palestinian workers in Israeli factories receive the same rights as Israeli workers. “We are creating a livelihood for them, which leads to de facto peace.”