Around a million people are unemployed, tens of thousands of businesses are collapsing, the labor market is in critical condition and the public fears for its livelihood and its children’s future. Moreover, all this is happening against the backdrop of reports of a second wave of the coronavirus leading to renewed restrictions and paralysis of the economy.
Yet in the midst of this apocalyptic situation, the Knesset Finance Committee found time and saw fit to accede to the request of the criminal defendant heading the most inflated and disconnected government in Israel’s history by approving tax breaks for Benjamin Netanyahu worth about a million shekels ($290,000).
LISTEN: Bibi Eyes 'Annexation Lite' as Pandemic Panic Returns
Without providing a full picture of the lifestyle Netanyahu wants the state to finance or explaining how exactly this is connected to doing his job, the Finance Committee approved his request that the state pick up the tab for taxes owed for the services, personal spending and other benefits he received due to his job through 2017. In other words, the only tax he will have to pay will be income tax on his salary.
This cynicism reached its peak with Likud MK Miki Zohar, who added the Israel Tax Authority to the “conspiracy” against Netanyahu and accused the “conspirators” of wanting “to turn the prime minister into an economic cripple.” Netanyahu, he added, “must be able to function without thinking about how he’ll get through the month.” This is chutzpah of the highest order. Netanyahu’s personal wealth is estimated at around 50 million shekels. He has been prime minister for more than 11 years, during which time his salary and expenses have been paid by the public. He never had and most likely never will have financial worries.
To depict him as someone who has trouble getting through the month is a bad joke, especially at a time when hundreds of thousands of taxpayers truly don’t know how they’ll make it through the month. Netanyahu would do better to learn from other countries, where leaders have cut their own salary or donated it to the public welfare as a sign of solidarity with the public. But not Netanyahu. This representative of the “second Israel” – that is the non-elite – is concerned first and foremost with his own wallet.
The fact that members of Benny Gantz’s Kahol Lavan party were absent from the Finance Committee vote is another gut punch for his voters. This is further proof that the only item our “coronavirus government” has on its agenda is looking out for its members and their families. Members of both Kahol Lavan and Netanyahu’s Likud party grasped the magnitude of the economic tsunami threatening to flood Israel due to the pandemic and rushed to find shelter in government offices. Instead of trying to solve the crisis and provide significant government assistance to the hundreds of thousands who are drowning financially, Gantz and his colleagues are collaborating in an additional blow to public trust in the government.
We can only hope that the million unemployed people watching this theater of the absurd will remember the government’s disconnect from them just when they needed the government more than ever before, and settle accounts.