Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz's popularity rose in recent weeks with the rise in the number of terror attacks. That's a peculiar Israeli anomaly of a people with a stiff neck. But Mofaz knows it's not enough to be identified with security to win the kind of popularity he wants. He also needs to be social.
So, at yesterday's cabinet session he said, "I oppose the budget because I don't see an outstretched hand to the weak." But how can a hand be outstretched when the defense minister is fighting with all his might against a cut in the defense budget, using scare tactics about Iran? If he would agree to the treasury plan, there would not be any need to cut the NIS 2 billion from the very weak Mofaz wants to please.
Mofaz says he favors increasing the budgets for education and health and help for the poor, but he is against increasing expenditures, so the increases would be at the expense of investment in infrastructure and at the expense of postponing the tax reform. How good it sounds. He doesn't have to concede on security, and support for the poor can be achieved. So why doesn't the evil Netanyahu accept Mofaz's proposal?
Because increasing government expenditure means increasing government debt, lowering Israel's international credit rating, raising interest rates and harming growth. Adopting the plan to lower investment in roads and railroads means another blow to growth, and postponing the tax reforms is another anti-growth move. In other words, if we accept the Mofaz plan, we'll have another year of retreat, and the price will be paid by the very classes he says he's so worried about: the single mothers won't find work, and the unemployed will increase in number. In other words, there are no magic formulas.
Limor Livnat also wants to rewrite the economics textbooks. As part of her war on the education budget cutbacks, she held a press conference calling for increased government expenditure, because so far there have only been cuts and the economy hasn't grown an iota. True. The economy hasn't grown. It's shrunk. But without the deep cuts that Silvan Shalom and Netanyahu made, we would be in a deep black hole, with unemployment so high that it is not certain we could survive it. Things like that have happened in other countries that were irresponsible, like Brazil and Argentina. Livnat also doesn't see any connection between the security situation and the economic crisis. As far as she is concerned, investments in the territories can continue, every peace process can be rejected and we can live by the sword forever - and continue to grow.
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