At the end of a long night’s meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet confirmed on Tuesday morning the economic plan for 2013-2014 with 21 ministers supporting the budget and one opposed—former head of the Histadrut trade union and current Environment Minister Amir Peretz.
Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party stated that the new program “features many achievements, including the historic decision to enforce core curriculum studies (English, Math) as part of the entire education system (e.g. Haredi yeshivas). The program also applies the ‘going out to work’ initiative, which offers incentives to encourage employment and increase the labor market, as well as cuts in child allowances and the denial of such allowances to earner of more than $225 thousand a year, implementation of the Kedmi committee recommendations to reduce food prices, war on money laundering and wage cuts for government ministers and Knesset members.”
That’s a whole lot of achievements for the fresh finance minister, and it certainly promotes just what the Haredi MKs have been dreading: an all out war against the Haredi population, disguised as a thoughtful attempt to improve their lives: they’ll learn the core curriculum, which will make them better able to hit the job market once their child allowances are revoked. And if they used to pocket their meager earnings, now the government will make it that much tougher for them to work off the books.
That’s a huge focus on about 8 percent of the population. And while the budget cuts a little less than $1 billion from the military, down to about $15 billion, in a couple of years the IDF is due for a $2 billion increase, give or take, for the purchase of all those shiny, new U.S. fighter bombers.
If the Haredim could fly at over 2 mach and bomb Syrians, they’d have nothing to worry about.
And if you’re a tourist and used to keep all your purchase receipts to present at the airport on your way back home so they’d give you back your Value Added Tax (VAT) – fuggedaboutit. You leave that VAT behind. And it ain’t your 8 percent city tax, either – Israel’s VAT is currently at 17%, and there’s talk of raising to 18%.
By the way, I checked the Israel Airport Authority website and they still say that “Tourists who purchase $100 worth of goods or more at shops registered with the Ministry of Tourism, are entitled to a discount and to a V.A.T. refund upon their departure from Israel.”
So, either they’ll update their website later today, or they know something I don’t.
Minister Lapid, who regularly communicates with the citizenry over Facebook—bypassing the media with their annoying questions—wrote this morning: “This is a difficult budget, which includes raising taxes and the biggest cuts in the country’s history, but it is also a budget of hope, that within a year and a half will significantly improve the condition of the Israeli middle class.”
Or not, depending on whether you’ll remember any of this a year and a half from now. Hey, what’s that on TV? The Voice? How can you have any financial worries left with those folks belting it out like they do?
Lapid touts the “Haredi core curriculum revolution,” and “a series of actions designed to ensure that they go out to work.”
Of course, everybody knows that, as soon as those Haredim hit the job market, Israel’s financial woes are over. Give the bearded guy a broom – sweep, sweep!
Lapid also promises a reduction in the cost of living, a war against concentrating too much power in government hands (permitting it to cut Haredi child allowances, for instance), and an increase in competition. He declares war on the black market economy—like no one has ever done, his words.
It’s all part of his effort to protect the working man, he writes on Facebook, and it’s “the first step in the journey.”