Netanyahu Promises He Won't Raise Taxes

In interview with Israel's Channel 2 television, the prime minister says proper government planning means tax hike won't be necessary; Labor Party chair Shelly Yacimovich slams statement as lies.

Under his helm, Israelis won't be subject to new taxes, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday night in a televised interview.

"At the moment, I don't think we'll have to raise taxes because we accounted for this, and perhaps the royalties from natural gas will be higher," Netanyahu told Israel's Channel 2 television.

Last summer, the cabinet raised taxes by NIS 4.4 billion for 2013. Responding to repeated questions on the subject during the interview, Netanyahu stressed that he has no intention of raising taxes further, calling such a move "not my natural inclination."

The prime minister refused to say which cuts he would make to the 2013 national budget, should he be victorious in the upcoming January 22 election. It will be up to that government, he said, to decide which areas will be trimmed and which would be padded, but not to decide on the cuts themselves.

Netanyahu also used the interview to reiterate the government's achievements under his leadership, including the introduction of free education for children aged 3 and higher; low unemployment rates; an increase in the minimum wage and an increase in the wages of those who work for employment agencies.

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, also speaking to Channel 2 on Monday, echoed Netanyahu's stance on no post-election tax hikes. "We already made them," Steinitz said. "We knew in advance that the state budget deficit would be bigger, and we introduced measures that will reduce it in 2013. We are among the few countries that reduced their national debt in the past three years," Steinitz said.

Labor Party chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich was quick to slam the prime minister's claims, calling them "verbal gymnastics" and warning that his re-election would spell massive debt for Israeli families.

"It is absolutely final: The day after the election, if Netanyahu forms the government, he will cut the middle class and the poor, and all of his partners who are already crawling into his government will sign these cuts with their own hands," she said in a separate television interview. "Verbal gymnastics, word play and hand motions – and one great big lie."

Netanyahu, Yacimovich said, has created a budget deficit of NIS 39 million and expects the public to pay for it. "He will saddle every family with a debt of NIS 18,000," she told the interviewer. Calling on centrist parties to offer a strong alternative to another Netanyahu term as prime minister, she added, "Netanyahu is gambling with our future Only Labor, under my leadership, offers an alternative to Netanyahu's extremist government."

AP