PM pledges to weigh alternatives to gasoline price hike

Ad hoc organizers on Facebook threaten to block Ayalon Freeway during rush hour.

Gasoline prices gas tax 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Gasoline prices gas tax 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
With public discontent steaming after a gas price hike earlier this week, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced Thursday evening that he will receive a list of alternatives to the gas tax at some point next week.
The announcement came amid a background of plans for public protests against the rising fuel costs, and a day after the premier told MKs that he would work to find a way to lower the prices.
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Netanyahu met Thursday afternoon with his top economic advisors – Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, National Economic Council Head Prof. Eugene Kandel and Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer – as well as Prime Minister’s Office director-general Eyal Gabbai, to discuss the price hike that brought gas prices to record levels of NIS 7.26 per liter.
“The possible courses of action will be analyzed and then presented to the prime minister in the course of next week,” said officials in the Prime Minister’s Office at the conclusion of the meeting.
A number of options have already been aired, including reducing the application of the negative income tax or raising the value added tax, but both options have been rejected as unfairly harming weaker sectors. Knesset Finance Committee Chairman Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) threatened earlier this week that unless a solution was found, he would oppose attempts by the government to offer corporate tax cuts, the reduction of which could also help mitigate the billions of shekels that the government might lose due to a reduction of fuel taxes.
Wednesday, during a speech on the Knesset floor defending his government’s economic and security policies, Netanyahu told the Knesset that he would consider alternatives to the high gas taxes.
“I will make a decision and I will announce it to the public – it won’t take a lot of time,” he added.
Later, Channel 2 television reported that the premier was planning on adopting a plan that would lower gas prices by 20 agurot per liter. The gas companies and the government would split the costs of the cut, anticipated to cost the state around NIS 4 billion in revenue, according to the report.
Meanwhile, social networking sites began to reverberate with plans for protest. A Facebook page entitled “Let’s Bring the Ayalon to a Stop” was circulated Thursday, receiving support from at least one opposition MK – Nino Abesadze (Kadima). Organizers called on the public to report to the busy Ayalon Freeway between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. on Sunday morning, and to block traffic at the Hashalom Interchange.
“People wake up! If we don’t flood the Ayalon on Sunday, we won’t do anything in this country. The time has come to act,” explained event organizer Ziv Dali, who said that he plans on coming to the protest “on foot, to stop the cars and save a bit of gas.”