Angry Northerners Say Treasury's Gas Price Hike Is a 'Periphery Tax'

As proposed in budget, Finance Ministry planning to increases the pump price of gasoline by 20 agorot per liter in 2011, and again in 2012.

Yehuda Glikman returned home yesterday to Moshav Nov, in the Golan Heights, after a work trip to Jerusalem. The drive, about 240 kilometers each way, gave him time to calculate how much more these trips will be costing him once the Finance Ministry increases the pump price of gasoline by 20 agorot per liter in 2011, and again in 2012, as is proposed in the budget.

"That will cost our household an additional NIS 1,500 next year," Glikman said. The Glikmans, like most families living in northern Israel, especially in rural communities, have two cars, because public transportation there is inadequate. Yehuda's wife works in Katzrin, 30 kilometers away, and needs her own car.

"The simplest thing, like shopping or medical care, means going to Tiberias," Glikman said. "It would be like Tel Aviv residents going to Hadera to shop. Raising gasoline prices imposes a hardship that doesn't take residents of the periphery into consideration," he said.

gas prices
Yaron Kaminsky

"It's a bad government, it's another hardship that shows its attitude to the periphery," said David Cohen of Kiryat Shmona, who for several months has been driving his ailing father to medical treatments.

"Increasing gas prices is a blow to residents of the periphery. It's an expense that cannot be eliminated or reduced, it simply comes out of my income, which is supposed to support a family of seven. It's a tax on residents of the periphery. What saddens me most is that Shas and the Labor Party, which purport to care about the simple folk, will vote in favor of that budget," Cohen said.

Revital Tal, of Kibbutz Snir, began yesterday to calculate what the anticipated increase in gas prices would do to the family budget. She said that her husband has to go to the center of the country for work and often travels by bus, a three and a half hour trip. "If he takes the car the gas will cost about NIS 250 each way," Tal says.

She works at Beit Shalom Estate Hotel in Metula, 30 kilometers from home. Because the bus comes only twice a day, she, too, needs her own car. "I have to carefully plan every trip - to work, driving the kids, to shop. Gas costs NIS 60 to NIS 70 a day, it's our main expense and we're always looking for ways to save on it. Living in the north is absolutely not as cheap as people think," Tal said.

Eitan Davidi, of Moshav Margalit, said that in approving the gas price increases, the cabinet is clearly not thinking about people in the Galilee and the Negev. It will also hurt farmers, he said.

"Does any cabinet member understand what it means to live here? All the slogans about giving priority to the Galilee and the Negev are empty. The government is heartless," Davidi said.