An alternative poverty report stating that 41 percent of Israelis are in financial straits and 35 percent of the country’s children live in poverty is “a serious indictment against ourselves,” former President Shimon Peres said Monday.
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“The parties must put dealing with poverty at the top of the agenda for the elections,” he told a conference of directors of food-related charities. “We can’t feed media declarations to hungry children and old people.”
Likud said the report, released Monday by anti-poverty group Latet, used “inflated” numbers because of political considerations, and accused the centrist and left-wing parties that of trying to drag the election campaign into the socioeconomic realm at the expense of debating security issues.
Peres was a target of much of the criticism.
“The left’s leaders and Shimon Peres cannot overcome Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu and Likud in the diplomatic, security and economic arena,” Likud said in a statement. “This is their twisted way of trying to move votes from the right to the leftist camp — in order to make the concessions and withdrawals that Shimon Peres has been dreaming of for years.”
Labor Party chairman Isaac Herzog called on Likud to direct their barbs at him, not Peres.
“I suggest that the various Likud spokesmen stop these cowardly and anonymous attacks on Peres, one of the giants of our country and a man with the greatest possible merits over the state’s 66 years of existence,” Herzog said. “If the Likud has something to say, let them come and debate me and the path that we are presenting to resolve the serious social distress that’s been left by six years of Netanyahu’s government.”
Dani Dayan, a former chairman of the Yesha Council of settlements who is running in the Habayit Hayehudi primary, was the first to launch a broadside against the former president.
“We’re talking about a man whose budget for his 90th birthday, which was celebrated for an entire year, could have fed tens of thousands of hungry people,” Dayan said. “The budget for the President’s Residence during his term grew by millions of shekels and reached 60 million shekels [$15.3 million]. Peres isn’t the man to lecture us about social justice.”
Yesh Atid said Netanyahu preferred to give funding to settlements than to the poor, saying: “The statistics about the scope of poverty in Israel are a badge of shame for the prime minister. ... The prime minister still prefers to transfer millions of shekels to isolated settlements and ignore the distress in Israeli society.”
Likud noted that the government has raised the minimum wage, passed a law mandating free education from age 3 and agreed to a one-year subsidy for soldiers studying at colleges in the Galilee or the Negev.