Habayit Hayehudi MK: Poverty Report Stats Must Be Inflated Because My Kids Aren't Poor

Deputy Knesset Speaker Bezalel Smotrich also insinuates Arabs underreport income, leading to misleading economic statistics.

Bezalel Smotrich speaking in the Knesset, November 16, 2015.
Olivier Fitoussi

Deputy Knesset Speaker Bezalel Smotrich said Wednesday that the latest official poverty report must be inflated because it states that one in every three Israeli children is poor, while none of his children are.

“I have five children and I do not think that two of them are poor,” he told Arutz Sheva. “I live in a community that includes yeshiva students and their families, who are considered poor, but I do not see them as poverty-stricken. The poverty line today does not reflect the reality in which people can live.”

MK Smotrich discounted the statistics pointing to higher poverty rates among ultra-Orthodox Jews and Arabs. While he merely noted that ultra-Orthodox Jews are less poor than they used to be, he insinuated Arabs are dishonest about their income, according to the report. “I think we should take with a grain of salt as well the statistics about the Arab populace, and check how much of their income is reported to tax authorities and how much is not,” he said. “This effects the data in the report.”

Smotrich, representing Habayit Hayehudi, did acknowledge the report’s importance, according to the Arutz Sheva report on Wednesday. “There is no doubt,” he told Arutz Sheva, “that the poverty report’s findings need to be studied in an in-depth fashion and become part of our working plan, as a Knesset and a government, to reduce poverty in Israel.”

However, even as he acknowledged the gap between socioeconomic strata, he stressed that poor people are not as poor as they were 20 years ago, given Israel’s economic growth, which has benefited Israelis across the board.