As Yesh Atid and Shas Release Economic Plans, Lapid Takes Aim at Dery

Yair Lapid wants to permanent bar anyone convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude - like Shas leader Arye Dery - from serving in public office.

Olivier Fitoussi

Yesh Atid seeks to permanently bar anyone convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude from serving in public office, the party announced as it released its economic platform on Monday. Later in the day, Shas — a party whose leader, Arye Dery, served two years in prison for bribery and would be barred from public office under such a clause — proposed new taxes on the wealthy and increased taxes on luxury homes and cars.

“We have to redivide the pie,” said Dery, who was released from prison in 2002. The economic platform for his party, whose political base includes low-income voters, also features a proposed change in the income tax credit system and an inheritance tax.

The Shas platform calls for an increase in the tax rate on homes purchased for investment, as well as the tax on rental income. In its inheritance tax proposal, Shas advocates taxing inheritances from the first shekel, particularly on real estate.

When it comes to housing policy, Shas is proposing allocating 7.5 percent of construction to public housing and freeing up more land for residential construction. The party is also calling for the repeal of value-added tax on basic necessities and supports raising the minimum wage to 30 shekels an hour (about $7.50).

Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid, who served as finance minister in the previous government until Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired him from the cabinet shortly before calling for elections in December, has made fighting corruption a priority in the current election campaign. The party, which has a middle-class base, is proposing a code of ethics for cabinet members that would prohibit them from invoking their right to remain silent in investigations over their conduct.

The Yesh Atid platform also includes an anti-poverty plan that calls for an increase in the salaries of soldiers performing their mandatory military service, and advocates that steps be taken to curb the practice of outsourcing jobs to contract workers.

Addressing the cost of living, Yesh Atid proposes that the customs exemption on imported products purchased over the Internet be increased to $500, along with other changes that would ease individuals’ ability to purchase products directly from abroad. It also advocates opening up the agricultural sector and pledges to lower the cost of fruits and vegetables through increased competition.

Last month the party released its housing platform at a separate event. A central plank of the platform is continued efforts to pass Lapid’s flagship VAT exemption plan, which would exempt eligible buyers of newly built homes from paying the 18 percent VAT. Lapid has also vowed to nationalize the Jewish National Fund, a nonprofit organization that owns large amounts of land in the country, turning it into a government corporation.

The party calls for land to be provided at no charge to contractors in outlying areas of the country for the construction of up to 1,500 housing units. It advocates streamlining the approval process for residential construction and providing local authorities with incentives to build small apartments for first-home buyers. It also calls for the long-term construction of 150,000 rental units and a rental housing code that would ban annual rent increases of more than 2 percent over a three-year period.

This year’s Yesh Atid platform runs 273 pages long, more than twice the length of the platform the party produced in the last Knesset election, in 2013. Much of the last platform was not implemented, although it should be noted that when Yesh Atid was in government, it was just one party in a Likud-led government. In some instances when Yesh Atid was in the cabinet, however, it took positions that were contrary to the platform.