Finance Minister: Growing Calls for Reform Could Lead to 'Anarchy' in Israel

Steinitz says Netanyahu government's 'supreme duty' amid calls for lower costs of living is to ensure that Israel does not reach the debt crisis experienced in Europe and the United States.

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz hit back on Sunday at the growing national protests over the rising cost of living, saying some reforms being demanded might lead to economic crises like those besetting parts of Europe and the United States.

The warnings followed marches by some 150,000 demonstrators, the resignation of a top treasury official and questions from leading commentators over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's ability to ride out a revolt by the middle class.

Israelis hold up banners as they march in Tel Aviv on July 30, 2011.Credit: AFP

"We see the talk about the debt crisis in Europe. We are even hearing talk of a possible default in the United States,"Steinitz said. "My supreme duty is to ensure we do not reach this situation in the State of Israel."

He rejected calls for the authorities to curb industry leaders who are often accused of artificially inflating the price of consumer goods through cartels tolerated by Netanyahu and his predecessors.

Jews and Arabs in Nazareth protest against rising prices, July 30, 2011.
Tens of thousands march through central Tel Aviv in protest at the high cost of living in Israel, July 30, 2011.
Tens of thousands gather in Tel Aviv to protest rising cost of living, July 30, 2011
9 of 9 |
Jews and Arabs in Nazareth protest against rising prices, July 30, 2011. Credit: Yaron Kaminsky
1 of 9 |
Tens of thousands march through central Tel Aviv in protest at the high cost of living in Israel, July 30, 2011.Credit: Tal Cohen
2 of 9 |
Tens of thousands gather in Tel Aviv to protest rising cost of living, July 30, 2011Credit: Tal Cohen
Over 100,000 take part in mass protests across Israel

"We will not part with our principles. We will not create anarchy here," Steinitz told reporters. "We will attend to (market) concentration but we will not turn the rich and the business people and the investors and the industrialists into the enemies of the people, because they are part of a healthy economy."

Steinitz, a stalwart of Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party, has been the focus of criticism in the crisis that erupted this month, and was dealt another blow on Sunday when his ministry's director-general, Haim Shani, resigned.

Shani, a former CEO of Nice Systems, one of Israel's most successful high-tech companies, complained in a statement of "long-running disagreements over significant issues and the overall management manner" in the Finance Ministry.

"The events of recent days magnify the problems," Shani said, referring to the spread of protests that began last month with a Facebook-mobilized price boycott of cottage cheese, after which students pitched tents in Tel Aviv to air grievances over rents.

They have been joined by activists of various demographic and political stripes, broadly representing the middle class, which is burdened by high taxes and serves as the backbone of the conscript military and its reservist forces.

The crisis has eclipsed the face-off with the Palestinians and other adversaries.

"We have to understand that we are moving away from a security mindset to a social mindset," Vice Premier Silvan Shalom said on the top-rated Channel Two television news.

Though Netanyahu's broad-based, conservative governing coalition should keep him in office until the next election in 2013, polls show his personal approval rating plummeting.
Media attention has focused on the massive concentration of corporate power in a small number of Israeli business groups.

Shani's resignation could undermine government efforts to tackle this thorny issue, as he had a leading role on a committee set up to explore the level of competition in the economy and present findings in a few weeks.

Addressing his cabinet, Netanyahu voiced sympathy for the protesters but credited government policy with keeping Israel's economic problems in relative check, with GDP growth projected at 5 percent this year and unemployment at a low 5.7 percent.

"This allows us to make the necessary repairs," said Netanyahu, who last week announced emergency housing reforms.

"It is incumbent upon us to avoid irresponsible, hasty and populist steps that would be liable to drag the country down to the situation of certain countries in Europe, which reached the point of bankruptcy and mass unemployment," he said.



Automatic approval of subscriber comments.

Already signed up? LOG IN


הקלטות מעוז

Jewish Law Above All: Recordings Reveal Far-right MK's Plan to Turn Israel Into Theocracy

איתמר בן גביר

Why I’m Turning My Back on My Jewish Identity

Travelers looking at the Departures board at Ben Gurion Airport. The number of olim who later become yordim is unknown.

Down and Out: Why These New Immigrants Ended Up Leaving Israel

Beatrice Grannò and Simona Tabasco as Mia and Lucia in "The White Lotus."

The Reality Behind ‘The White Lotus’ Sex Work Fantasy

The Mossad hit team in Dubai. Exposed by dozens of security cameras

This ‘Dystopian’ Cyber Firm Could Have Saved Mossad Assassins From Exposure

מליאת הכנסת 28.12.22

Comeback Kid: How Netanyahu Took Back Power After 18 Months in Exile