Despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's promises that a vote on benefits to reduce the cost of living for Israelis would take place Sunday, a cabinet meeting to make a decision on whether or not to adopt recommendations of the Trajtenberg committee on socioeconomic change ended without a decision on nearly all of the issues.
A vote on the competition chapter of the recommendations will now take place at next Sunday's cabinet meeting instead. Yesterday's meeting was shorter than normal, only three hours, as Netanyahu and a number of ministers were in a hurry to get to a memorial ceremony for Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion.
Netanyahu is under extreme pressure from business interests against the recommendations.
The cabinet did manage to approve a duty free imports of goods bought over the Internet and imported on a personal, non-commercial basis. Up to NIS 1,200 worth of such goods can be imported without customs - but consumers will still have to pay VAT and purchase taxes. Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz must still sign off on the new regulations for them to take effect.
"Those who buy products on the Internet will be exempt from taxes for purchases of up to NIS 1,000. I can already tell you that there is a proposal to increase this amount and make things easier for hundreds of thousands of citizens, if not more, who buy products over the Internet," Netanyahu said at the cabinet meeting.
The meeting yesterday was supposed to have approved the measures on increasing competition in the recommendations of the Trajtenberg committee, formulated in the aftermath of Israel's social protests this summer. The recommendations on taxes were approved by the cabinet a month ago.
The economic measures that were to be voted on yesterday included a proposal to allow for more gas stations to be built as a means for lowering fuel costs. The proposal, one of a package aimed at broadening competition in the market to counter Israel's high cost of living, would ease regulatory measures to expedite the establishment of more stations, which would then increase competition and lead to lower fuel costs.
For more coverage, see the editorial on page 5.
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