Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday morning that his request for a tax break was justified but added that the "timing was wrong and that I regret," likely referring to Israel's economic crisis brought about by the coronavirus.
Last week, the Knesset Finance Committee approved retroactive tax reimbursements for Netanyahu worth about 1 million shekels.
The clause, approved following a heated session that lasted three hours, states, “Tax imposed on the prime minister on account of income from payments, services and gifts from the state related to his duties as prime minister will be at the expense of the state.”
Netanyahu will enjoy a retroactive tax break on payments, services and privileges he has received as part of his job for the years 2009 through 2017.
The Tax Authority is currently demanding back payment of these taxes for the years 2013 through 2017.
The tax break, Netanyahu tweeted, “is justified because I shouldn’t be charged personally, which no prime minister has ever been, and therefore the committee determined that there wasn't one law for Netanyahu and another for other prime ministers.”
Netanyahu’s request related to the years up to 2017, since in 2018 a law was drafted that exempted the prime minister from paying tax on payments, services and benefits he receives that stem from his official capacity. The law was initiated by Miki Zohar, a Likud lawmaker and a close Netanyahu ally.
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Opposition head Yair Lapid lashed out the prime minister, saying: "On the contrary. The request is not justified because you don't deserve a million shekel from the state coffer while hundreds of thousands are unemployed and many self-employed are on the verge of collapse. But the timing is justified because it reminded everyone that you and your government are so detached."
The Prime Minister's Office said that Netanyahu isn't seeking for special benefits and that the payment the Tax Authority is demanding for the years 2013 through 2017 is unprecedented.
Speaking before the Finance Committee last week, Zohar said that “They want to turn Netanyahu into an economic cripple.”
In an interview with army radio, Zohar said: “Today the prime minister doesn’t need to think how to make ends meet. He receives a salary with which he provides his family with their basic needs.”
In an interview with Channel 12 News on Saturday, Finance Minister Yisrael Katz also said the Knesset session regarding Netanyahu's request was ill-timed.