So Much for Lapid's New Politics

To pass the zero-VAT law as quickly as possible and prevent embarrassment, the finance minister is willing to give in to political extortion.

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Finance Minister Yair Lapid.
Finance Minister Yair Lapid.Credit: Tomer Apelbaum

Two months ago Finance Minister Yair Lapid issued a fierce attack against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policy toward the Palestinians and the United States, calling on him to draw a map of Israel’s permanent borders to enable progress in the negotiations with the Palestinians and improve Israel’s foreign relations. In his speech at June’s Herzliya Conference, Lapid said any diplomatic vacuum created will cause Israel’s position to deteriorate into international isolation, cause economic damage and bring about an worsening of the security situation. Lapid even declared he would not hesitate to bring down the government if it tried to annex settlements. Even though Lapid’s Yesh Atid party has never dared to propose any sort of peace plan, Lapid has always been careful to communicate to his voters that he supports a peace agreement.

After failing to fulfill his campaign promises – to draft Haredim and reduce the cost of living – Lapid pulled out his political life preserver in the form of the zero-VAT proposal for relatively inexpensive new apartments, a plan in which more and more fundamental distortions and economic flaws are being constantly revealed. Now it turns out that this problematic bill comes with a “settlements tax.” To pass the zero-VAT law as quickly as possible and prevent embarrassment, Yesh Atid is willing to give in to political extortion (as Zvi Zrahiya has written about in TheMarker).

The Knesset Finance Committee, which is chaired by MK Nissan Slomiansky of Habayit Hayehudi, approved on Tuesday the transfer of 20 million shekels to municipalities in the territories. This is part of a total of 40 million shekels (nearly $11.5 million) the government decided to allocate after the abduction and murder of the three teenage boys. The remaining 20 million shekels will be transferred after the approval of the zero-VAT law, said Knesset sources. Slomiansky refused to answer the requests of several MKs to announce whether there is or is not a “deal” between the parties.

Slomiansky treats the Finance Committee, and not for the first time, as if it were his own private kitty – or, to be more precise, as if it were the private cash box of the settlements. He does not share with committee members the full details of the budgetary transfers of sums in the tens and hundreds of millions of shekels. Two and a half months ago, for example, the Finance Committee approved the transfer of 888 million shekels to the Education Ministry, without committee members knowing what the money was to be used for.

It is actually Yesh Atid, which promised its voters “new politics,” which has been once again revealed as an entity without principles, one that conducts political horse trading to win achievements for its leader.

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