Beer and bombs
Hebrew media review

Beer and bombs

New taxes on the cold 'n' bubbly and smokes went into effect overnight, and Iran gets more centrifuges online

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

A woman reads the free daily Israel Hayom. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
A woman reads the free daily Israel Hayom. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The Israeli press expresses the shock and dismay of many Israeli consumers at the sudden tax hike on beer and cigarettes that unexpectedly took effect Wednesday night, and the planned budget cuts and rise in VAT put forward by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The plan to implement new taxes on brews and cigarettes was announced in Wednesday’s papers, but the sudden decision by Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz to up the taxes the same night caught most of the country off guard. The price of a liter of beer jumped NIS 2.5, and that of a pack of smokes by NIS 2.9, overnight. The dreams of thousands of stocking up on beer before the taxes went up were shattered like glass bottles.

“It is a defensive line surrounding the Israeli economy and its citizens. He who recommends otherwise, and whosoever shall advise that we ought to announce that our objective is the deficit, advises that we turn Israel into Spain or Greece or Italy,” Israel Hayom quoted Steinitz saying Wednesday.

The paper also reports that the number of tax collectors was increased by 600 in order to combat tax evasion and increase government revenue.

Yedioth Ahronoth writes that the tax increases slated to go into effect next week will not only hurt beer and cigarette consumers, but real people, too. The paper presents two families. After calculating their projected expenses with the new tax increases, Yedioth Ahronoth finds that they will see an average monthly rise of NIS 89 in monthly costs.

Yedioth Ahronoth’s political cartoon expresses the perceived burden of the new taxes upon the Israeli population. A sack labeled “reserve duty” sits atop four others marked “taxes,” and Netanyahu dangles a carrot before the ass that is the Israeli taxpayers and says, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch!”

Photo of Yedioth Ahronoth's political cartoon from July 26.
Photo of Yedioth Ahronoth’s political cartoon from July 26.

Maariv calculates that the average family will have to cough up an additional NIS 1,740 per year. For the upper crust (top 5% of the country), that figure will be an additional whopping NIS 400 per year.

But all these numbers are confusing, and this is a problem that needs need human parameters. “Our dishwasher broke recently, and I didn’t buy another,” said a mother interviewed by Maariv. “Hurting the middle class is the easy solution. They could make cuts in other places.”

“We don’t want hundreds of thousands of unemployed Israelis,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explained on Wednesday. “Managing a national economy is like managing a household. We must balance expenses and income.”

Although Netanyahu spoke of unemployment, Israel Hayom reminds its readers that the 5% budgetary cuts to all government ministries except education, welfare, and defense goes to “funding the war on illegal migrants, strengthening the firefighting service — including acquisition and operation of plans and aerial firefighting systems — and funding private legislation.”

Haaretz’s Nehemia Shtrasler criticizes Netanyahu for “continuing to cast responsibility for the [economic] crisis on someone else,” specifically, he writes, the now-extinct Mapai party that ruled in one form or another until 1977.

“Now, after 64 years in power, the knight on horseback arrives at long last in order to repair everything the Mapainiks broke,” Shtrasler mocks. “They signed the openhanded agreement with Shas, which raises the budgets of yeshivas and their students,” he jibes. “They, too, had 29 ministers and 7 deputies in the government, almost a world record.”

Ahmadinejad say what?

With all the talk of Israeli economics and crises in Syria, the Israeli press had almost forgotten about Iran. Israel Hayom brings Tehran back into focus with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s reported statement on Wednesday that his country had activated hundreds more nuclear centrifuges.

“At the moment there are 11,000 active centrifuges in the enrichment facilities,” he said, a full 1,000 more than the number the Islamic Republic reported to the International Atomic Energy Administration in May.

Meanwhile, Maariv quotes Defense Minister Ehud Barak reiterating the now-familiar phrase “better to bomb Iran than an Iranian bomb.”

“Dealing with an Iranian nuke will be immeasurably more dangerous than the difficulties and complexities surrounding preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” Barak said Wednesday.

Even the press’s growing interest in the upcoming Olympics is growing tinged by the red, white, and green of Iran. Haaretz’ political cartoon shows the Israeli political coterie marching behind an undoubtedly Iranian delegation at the Olympics, carrying a massive Israeli flag.

Photo of Haaretz's political cartoon from July 26.
Photo of Haaretz’s political cartoon from July 26.

Yedioth Ahronoth runs a translated copy of a New York Times article which quotes a Syrian rebel who said his group — a branch of al-Qaeda — aims “to create a single Islamic state out of Syria and Iraq which would fight Israel.” The Turkish border crossing captured by the rebels last week, the article claims, has become the nerve center for jihadist activists.

As a footnote, it mentions 158 people were killed across Syria on Wednesday.

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