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December 11, 2016 / 11 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Finance Minister’

State Dept. Not Huge Fans of Netanyahu Video on Peace and ‘Ethnic Cleansing’ [video]

Saturday, September 10th, 2016

One of the disturbing points few in the media discussed back in 2005, when the Israeli government was strong-arming its 8,000 or so citizens off their lands in the Gaza Strip, was the fact that no one was entertaining the possibility of letting the Jews of Gaza become citizens of the Palestinian Authority. In fact, one of the things government agents took care of early on in the process was to disarm the residents of Jewish Gush Katif, so that they, too, wouldn’t dream of staying and defending themselves on their own.

Now one of the Israeli politicians who voted 4 out of 5 times for the program to exile the Jews of Gaza, including the dead and buried, then Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud), has begun to ask that very question, this time regarding the Jews of Judea and Samaria: how come no one is talking about transferring the Jewish communities, along with their people, over to Palestinian Authority rule, as a legitimate Jewish minority with equal rights? Why is everyone insisting the area must remain free from Jews?

In a video he posted this weekend, Prime Minister Netanyahu is asking why everyone around the world is convinced Jewish settlements are such a threat to peace. Because while no one would seriously claim that the nearly two million Arabs living inside Israel are an obstacle to peace, having close to half a million Jews living in Judea and Samaria makes peace impossible.

“It’s called ethnic cleansing,” Netanyahu says on the video, noting that while Israel’s diversity “shows its openness and readiness for peace, the Palestinian leadership actually demands a Palestinian state with one pre-condition: No Jews.”

On Friday, State Dept. Press Office Director Elizabeth Trudeau used her daily press briefing to rebut Netanyahu’s accusation, although a careful reading of her attack on the PM reveals she didn’t really answer his main argument.

The reporter who cited the Netanyahu video did a good job of digging up the key points, saying the PM is “talking about settlements and talking about the Palestinians wanting to have a state that has no Jews in it at all and saying that this is ethnic cleansing. And he also says that that demand is outrageous, that it’s even more outrageous that the world doesn’t find it outrageous. And then he says some otherwise enlightened countries even promote this outrage.”

Trudeau responded: “We obviously strongly disagree with the characterization that those who oppose settlement activity or view it as an obstacle to peace are somehow calling for ethnic cleansing of Jews from the West Bank. We believe that using that type of terminology is inappropriate and unhelpful.”

She explained that “settlements are a final status issue that must be resolved in negotiations between the parties,” and the next line out of her mouth was: “We share the view of every past US administration and the strong consensus of the international community that ongoing settlement activity is an obstacle to peace.”

So, to reiterate, 1. Shame on you, Mr. Netanyahu for using bad words; 2. We will deal with the status of those Jews in Judea and Samaria when everything else has been resolved; 3. Jews living in Judea and Samaria are a menace to peace.

Why? What if the PA and the Israelis decide that they want Jews living in a free Palestinian State, carrying Palestinian passports and enjoying equal rights? How then would today’s settlements have been a threat to peace?

Trudeau continued with the familiar, regurgitated statements about the thousands of new settlement units being built (we wish) and the vicious demolitions of illegal Arab structures in accordance with Israeli law, which the US should respect but doesn’t. She then announced that the US is “engaging in direct conversations with the Israeli Government on this. … We’ll have our conversation with our Israeli allies and friends and we’ll see where that goes.”

Not everyone in Israel is happy with the Netanyahu video. MK Ayman Odeh, Chairman of the Joint Arab List, accused the PM of revising history. And MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Camp) said that with one video Netanyahu managed to wipe out her accomplishments in the Sharon government, guaranteeing that the clusters of settlements would remain part of Israel as part of a two-state solution.

Israeli rightwingers will probably start drilling the PM on Sunday, after they emerge from their Shabbat rest. They won’t be happy with the fact that the PM has so openly entertained the possibility of a Palestinian State as a given fact. But the points Netanyahu made were sound and they could go a long way in stirring the presidential campaign’s foreign policy debate.

JNi.Media

A First: Kibbutzniks to Pay Personal Income Tax

Thursday, August 4th, 2016

Individual kibbutz members will be required to pay a 25% personal income tax as well as the Social Security Healthcare tax starting next January, according to a move by the Finance Ministry, Israel Hayom reported Thursday. The new taxes are expected to enrich the Finance coffers by close to $80 million annually, and the Social Security income by about $50 million.

Since the beginning of communal history, each kibbutz used to pay a corporate tax for all the members, and even after the change in taxation kibbutz members without outside income will not be required to file individually. But over the past few decades many kibbutz members have been working off the kibbutz grounds, contributing a portion of their income to the cooperative — and the Israeli tax authority would like to take a peek at those monies.

The Finance Ministry’s new rule must still go through the Knesset Finance Committee for approval, and the agricultural lobby is expected to put up a hard fight against the changes.

Amitai Porat, the Religious Kibbutz Movement Secretary General, and Nir Meir, the Kibbutz Movement Secretary General, on Wednesday wrote Prime Minister Netanyahu requesting that he halt Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon’s proposed changes in the tax code regarding kibbutzim. They told the PM that “Minister Kahlon is not interested in meeting us to find a solution that would make it possible to reexamine the tax code while maintaining and protecting the kibbutz character and the communal life in which we believe.”

David Israel

Finance and Justice Ministries to Crack Down on Gambling

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

By Michael Zeff/TPS

Jerusalem (TPS) – Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Justice Ministry Director General Emi Palmor announced at a joint press conference on Wednesday evening that gambling machines and horse racing are to be outlawed in Israel.

“Israel’s weakest and poorest are being sold illusions and false hopes every day,” said Minister Kahlon. “As of next year, there will not be a single gambling machine or any horse racing in Israel.”

There are currently some legal forms of gambling permitted in Israel though most are outlawed. The only authorities licensed to provide gambling services are Mifal HaPayis, which operates the Israeli national lottery, and the Sports Betting Council, which manages betting on various sports events. The gambling machines belong to the lottery while horse-race betting is run through the Sports Betting Council.

The announcement was made after a report published on Wednesday by the Commission on Gambling Regulations, a joint think-tank headed by the directors general of the two ministries.

The commission’s recommendations include a limit on the size of the legal gambling sector, a prohibition on operating games with an addictive nature, a tax raise on money earned through gambling, and various other limitations.

The report expects the implementation of its recommendations to drastically curb the growth of the gambling sector in Israel and thus decrease its influence on the Israeli population.

Minister Kahlon announced that he would adopt and implement the recommendations to their full extent.

“It is no coincidence that these gambling machines are found mostly in poor neighborhoods. It is also not a coincidence that we see a sharp rise in lottery revenue the day after welfare checks are sent out every month,” Kahlon explained.

The report claims that while a certain percentage of the gambling revenue accrued by these authorities is meant to go to charity and to state education and welfare projects, only a small amount actually does.

The report further states that there will be a reduction in the operating costs of the Sports Betting Council and the lottery, such as in advertising and sales commissions, thus increasing the state’s share of the revenue.

“Unregulated gambling exclusively and deliberately targets and hurts the country’s weakest communities so as long as I am finance minister, there will be no casinos in Israel,” concluded Kahlon.

TPS / Tazpit News Agency

Bill Approved to Increase Competition in Israeli Financial Sector

Monday, August 1st, 2016

By Michael Zeff/TPS

Jerusalem (TPS) – The Israeli government unanimously approved legislation to increase competition in the Israeli financial sector on Sunday.

According to a Finance Ministry spokesperson, the legislation aims to shatter the current banking sector oligopoly by allowing new players to enter the financial and banking sector thus increasing market competition.

“The problem with Israeli banks is that they all suffer from a lack of efficiency in costs, which is necessarily rolled on to the consumers of their financial services,” Professor Omer Moav, an economics expert at the University of Warwick, told Tazpit Press Service (TPS). “Competition can help that. Allowing foreign banks to offer services, even through the Internet for example, will decrease costs and increase efficiency.”

The bill was proposed by Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and is an implementation of recommendations made by the Committee on Increasing Competitiveness in the Economy. The committee was formed by Minister Kahlon and the Central Bank of Israel (CBI) in order to find legal ways to increase competitiveness and efficacy in the otherwise concentrated and cartelized Israeli banking system.

“The changes mandated by this law, mainly the recommendation to separate the banks from the credit companies, will create an advanced banking system and more competitiveness in the retail and small business fields in the upcoming years,” said CBI Governor Karnit Flug.

The main clauses of the bill include a separation of the major Israeli banks from Israeli credit companies. The three largest Israeli banks also currently own and operate the credit card companies.

The three banks, Hapoalim, Leumi, and Discount, together control about 75% of credit in Israel. The new law will force Hapoalim and Leumi at the least to sell their existing credit card companies.

In addition the new law will provide certain protections and incentives for potential new actors to enter the Israeli market, such as more flexible regulations to help them compete with the major banks.

“The bill also includes a pathway to the establishment of entirely new Israeli banks, better oversight on existing banks and on their competitiveness, the creation of new and improved databases for credit card companies, and the advancement of technology and innovation in local banks,” Governor Flug elaborated.

However, the measures proposed by the bill have been previously criticized by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) of which Israel is a member.

According to the IMF, the government committee that provided recommendations for the bill used old data in its analysis thus rendering the basis of the reform faulty and potentially harming the stability of the entire system.

While Flug and the CBI supported the bill and helped shape it to a large extent, Flug cautioned the government to implement the law responsibly. “An increase in the number of banks and financial brokers that are not banks means a higher risk of collapse,” she contended.

TPS / Tazpit News Agency

Knesset Committee Approves Submission to US IRS Tax Compliance Act

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016

After weeks of debates, on Monday the Knesset Finance Committee approved a bill to apply the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), which the US has already signed with 113 countries. The 2010 federal law enforces the requirement for US citizens living abroad to file yearly reports on their non-US financial accounts to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FINCEN). The law also requires all foreign financial institutions (FFIs) to search their records and to report the assets of US citizens living abroad to the US Department of the Treasury.

Finance Committee Chairman MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) was able, after lengthy negotiations with the Israeli Finance Ministry, to increase the protection of Israeli citizens whose information will be handed over to the US, and reduce in half (from about $27 thousand to about $13 thousand) the sanctions against financial institutions that fail to comply with new law for technical reasons. Gafni also managed to change the definition of charity organizations in the Haredi community (Gmachim), changing their definition from “financial institutions” to “organizations that benefit the public,” thus removing them from the FATCA zone.

The committee also succeeded in repelling the Israeli tax authority, which wanted initially to be able to use information gathered by Israeli banks for FATCA to their own local tax collection ends. As Gafni put it, “This is a bad law, and to come now and use it for other purposes that have nothing to do with its essence would be unthinkable.”

The issue of forcing foreign financial institutions and foreign governments to collect data on US citizens at their own expense and transmit it to the IRS has been attacked outside Israel as well. Former Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty objected to the law’s “far-reaching and extraterritorial implications” which require Canadian banks to become extensions of the IRS and could jeopardize Canadians’ privacy rights.

There have also been reports of many foreign banks refusing to open accounts for Americans, making it harder for Americans to live and work abroad.

JNi.Media

Knesset Committee Slams Finance Minister on Fear of Fighting Monopolies

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

“Five years have passed, and prices have not gone down, and in certain cases they have gone up,” members of the Knesset Finance Committee told government representatives during Monday’s meeting marking five years since the summer of 2011 popular social protest in Israel.

The committee members slammed Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon for “being afraid to fight the monopolies,” but members of Kahlon’s Kulanu party said in response, “We are advancing many reforms, and we can already see the results on the ground.”

Finance Committee Chairman MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) said that “with all due respect to the Finance Ministry and talks of reform, in practice the prices have not gone down.”

MK Uri Maklev (United Torah Judaism) said, “Five years after the ‘cottage cheese’ protest, not only have the prices not gone down, in real terms they have increased, because the prices of commodities around the world have dropped 30-50%, and this is not being reflected in the Israeli market. Prices are 20% higher, on average, than in Europe. The prices of inputs have also decreased, as has the price of gas and energy, but this has not had any effect. What happened is that the monopolies and chain stores have gained huge profits at the consumers’ expense.”

MK Manuel Trajtenberg (Zionist Camp) explained that “the expense basket of a young family has three main components: housing, education and food. In housing the prices have only gone up; in education there has been some progress regarding ages 3-4, but not a week goes by that we are not asked to answer questions regarding family expenses related to education. An average family with three children spends some $1,300 a month on education, day care, afternoon child care, camps, and more. As far as food is concerned, some positive steps have been taken, but that nut has not been cracked and, ultimately, too much power has been left in the hands of a small number of companies.”

MK Yitzhak Vaknin (Shas) charged that the Trajtenberg Committee, which examined and proposed solutions to Israel’s socioeconomic problems, was established only to “ease tensions” and “take the wind out of the social protest’s sails.” In practice, he said, “nothing has been done.” Vaknin called to restore price controls, saying “in the absence of competition, this is the solution.”

MK Oren Hazan (Likud) said the problem is “greed.” The chain store owners and the major wholesalers “earn tens of millions on the public’s back,” he stated. “And meanwhile, here in the Knesset, people are strong at talking. The finance minister can make bold decisions and change the market without fearing his friends the tycoons. Here in this committee we have the power to advance a plan to dissolve the monopolies. We will enact a law to that effect.”

MK Roy Folkman of Kulanu said, “We have waged an all-out war on the monopolies. In Israel there is a very high concentration of market controls, and a finance minister who does not fear them has now arrived. We launched reforms in the importing of fresh meat and the prices have dropped. With fish as well, we created parallel importing. For years no one has dared to deal with the monopolies, which maintain a stronghold on Israeli politics, and we have started doing so. A change can already be seen in toiletries, food items, children’s toys and other items. The fight takes courage and ability. Increasing competition is the only way. Price control does not work; [corporations] would only raise the prices of other items. The business sector is more sophisticated than the regulator.”

MK Rachel Azaria, also from Kulanu, said “We are making great efforts, but every issue that reaches the Knesset gets stuck there. Every reform encounters objections, and it is nearly impossible to pass anything, including the fight against black market capital. I belong to the finance minister’s faction and it is my job to pass things, but nothing can be advanced; there are always dramas here; in some cases it’s the kibbutzim, in others kashrut – everybody has an interest. We have to be brave and deal with the basic problems: monopolies, quotas and interested bodies that prevent change. In the Arrangements Law we will introduce important reforms, and then we will see if all those who are yelling here will support them. We are the cause of the high prices. We have an opportunity to lower the cost of living, and I hope everyone here will support [the measures].”

JNi.Media

Israel ‘Shocked and Horrified’ at Orlando Massacre, But Life Must Go On

Monday, June 13th, 2016

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was speaking on behalf of the entire nation at the opening of the cabinet meeting on Monday when he offered condolences to the United States over the Orlando massacre.

The attack carried out by an ISIS terrorist at an Orlando night club in the wee hours of Sunday morning left 50 people dead and another 53 wounded, plus countless others deeply traumatized in the Florida city where Disney, among others, feel at home on the East Coast.

“We are all shocked at the horrific massacre in Orlando,” Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly government cabinet meeting.

“On behalf of the government and people of Israel, I would like to again express our condolences to the American people and the families at this especially difficult hour.

“This terror threatens the entire world and it is necessary – first of all – that the enlightened countries urgently unite to fight it. We stand shoulder to shoulder with the American people,” he said.

The prime minister then went on to discuss the economic improvements being considered by the government – including the separation of credit companies from the major Israeli banks.

“Competition in the banking sector will ease the credit situation for small and medium business,” he said. “And separation between the major banks and credit card companies is the start of a comprehensive reform that will be good for all Israelis.”

Hana Levi Julian

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/israel-shocked-and-horrified-at-orlando-massacre/2016/06/13/

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