Defense Minister and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz initiated a media blitz on Monday, giving interviews to the nightly news broadcasts. He outlined why he is a legitimate candidate to become prime minister and lead the country after the November election.
Of course, much of the focus centered on security and politics – whether he would or would not be willing to sit in a government with the Likud, led by Benjamin Netanyahu.
Regarding the economy, Gantz said lowering prices was a general goal for the next government – without going into any detail as to what his plan may be to achieve that aim.
It was a huge missed opportunity, while the cost of living is looming larger than ever as the one issue that is going to inflame the passion of voters and actually get them to the polls.
With the outrageous housing and gas prices (currently at an obscene NIS 8.08 per liter, following the latest increase at the beginning of July), and the rising cost of products just about everywhere one looks, the cost of living is taking over from the traditional issues of security and two-states that have traditionally defined Israeli election campaigns.
Israel’s annual inflation rate (the Consumer Price Index) was 4.4% as of June, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics – the highest since 2008. Contributing to the June rise were increases in transportation (2.4%), housing (0.7%) and culture and entertainment (0.7%).
Lapid to lower gas prices
To his credit, Prime Minister Yair Lapid did focus on the issue on Sunday, when he announced that the price of fuel is slated to drop as of August 1 as part of an initiative to counteract the generally high cost of living.
“This government will lead a determined campaign on the cost of living,” Lapid said. “What is happening now is just the beginning. The cost of living is a scourge, and we are determined to address it. There can’t be a rich country here with citizens who don’t [cover their monthly expenses]. For 15 years, the struggle against the cost of living was completely neglected; they simply did nothing. We are changing that now.”
To that end, Lapid and Economy Minister Orna Barbivay on Monday agreed to limit planned price hikes for bread, the symbolic everyman form of sustenance by which a society is judged.
According to the agreement, prices will rise gradually over the coming months but not reach a previously planned increase. Man does not live by bread alone, however, and living in Israel is getting increasingly more difficult with each passing month.
The yoke of the cost of living is not only affecting those of us who live here, but also Jews around the world who might be considering aliyah.
The primary obstacle preventing many North American Jews interested in aliyah from making the final plunge is the prohibitive cost of housing, the head of a major Jewish organization told a visiting group of Jerusalem Post editors this week.
Think about that. To take nothing away from the gravity of the threats emanating from Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas, or the continuing impasse with the Palestinians about land in dispute between us that results in ongoing terrorism against Israelis, it’s the fear of not being able to afford housing that’s keeping some Jews away from Israel.
Moreover, it’s the fear of the rising cost of living that is keeping Israelis up at night, not the threats from enemies that are part of our daily existence here.
The parties running for the next Knesset need to internalize this and build their campaigns over the next three months to address this new reality and formulate plans of action to combat this latest virus that is eating away at the fabric of our society.
Rather than the worn-out Left and Right divide, voters would be well advised to cast their ballots for the party that is willing to put politics aside and work inside a coalition to tackle this most serious of problems with a well-researched and feasible program that will provide answers and ease the burden of the cost of living that we are succumbing to.
Housing, food and gas should not be luxuries.