Knesset Members Slam Lieberman’s Call to Cut Their Pay

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MKs Wednesday harshly criticized former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s call to cut their wages by 10 percent, but few would say so openly. Several MKs blasted Lieberman’s move as populist.

“Any Knesset member who openly objects to a wage cut would be seen as wanting to earn more money, not as one arguing over principles,” said one MK.

Lieberman, the head of Yisrael Beiteinu, called on MKs to take a 10 percent wage cut until the end of 2014, in view of the deficit and cutbacks expected in the next state budget.

“In a meeting I held with Yisrael Beiteinu members we discussed Israel’s complicated economic situation ... We decided to give the new finance minister, Yair Lapid, our full support,” Lieberman wrote in a Facebook post.

“We call on all MKs to give up 10 percent of their salaries from now to the end of 2014. We hope the prime minister, Knesset speaker and finance minister support our proposal so that, in addition to saving money, we can set a personal example in a difficult time.”

According to another MK, “This is an entirely populist move, but you can’t argue with the people’s feelings about the inequality between the burden most people shoulder and the MKs’ relatively high salaries.”

MKs who went on the record as supporting the wage cut blasted it off the record.

“I suggest that Lieberman contribute the giant sums that his children received from the companies he set up, before he suggests to contribute meaningless sums from MKs’ wages,” an MK said.

According to another, “MKs are highly paid for a reason. It’s to make them independent of wealthy people, cuts and benefits. It’s important that public officials earn a lot of money.”

He said “slashing MKs’ wages is a ploy to legitimize pay cuts for public sector workers. If MKs can give up 10 percent of their pay, then the teachers and social workers can certainly give up 5 percent, they’ll say. Except that a 5-percent cut from a teacher’s salary will make his life much harder than the MKs’ pay cut would.”

Another MK suggested that rich MKs should do their work for nothing: “Former minister Yaakov Neeman always said he was willing to do the job for nothing. Rich people can waive their pay for the public service. Neeman is a wealthy man, but what about the rest? They have to make a living, too.”

Lieberman responded to the criticism saying, "It is obvious to everyone that cuts to MK salaries will not add billions of dollars to the economy and will not solve the budgetary challenges we are facing. But, as I said when I proposed the wage cuts, it is very important to set a personal example."

"The mostly anonymous criticism by my colleagues charging me with populism is a sign of envy and I hope they will wise up and make their own positive proposals," Lieberman wrote on his Facebook page.

Avigdor Lieberman. Credit: Alex Kolomvisky

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