The tax man passeth
Hebrew media review

The tax man passeth

The approval of the government's new economic package makes front-page news across the board

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz during a Knesset session in January (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz during a Knesset session in January (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)

Remember those good ol’ days, when paying for a product or service meant you only had to give the state an extra 16 percent cut. Readers of today’s Hebrew press know that those carefree days of sunshine and giggles are gone like so many shekels into the wind.

All four papers have prominent coverage of the signing into law yesterday of an economic package that will see taxes go up and ministry budgets cut. (Yedioth Ahronoth is the only paper not to lead with the tax story.) Haaretz, which is normally against the Defense Ministry-funded racist Israeli apartheid police state, leads off with the news that the ministry’s budget will be cut after Defense Minister Ehud Barak protested the moves. Take that, Israeli security!

Nehemia Shtrasler writes in the paper that he’s happy they cut Israel’s security budget, but the real shame is that the tax increases and budget cuts hurt everybody, instead of just the ultra-Orthodox and settlers, who should pay for the state’s budget shortfalls: “I agree it would have been much better for the plan to slash the budgets earmarked for the ultra-Orthodox, the settlers and the IDF, as well as revoke the annoying tax exemptions of the privileged, like the VAT exemption on fruit and vegetables [sic].… But since the cabinet was afraid of confronting groups with power and interests, there was no option but to raise taxes across the board.”

Maariv sees the gathering clouds of another coming crudstorm. On the front page is the news that along with all the taxes and ministry cuts, gas will be going up too, just to make sure your wallet knows who’s boss. Flip inside and the paper details that in a few months it’s likely we’ll be pining for those warm July days, when the government was kind enough to poke us in the eye with only a dull fork. On the menu for the 2013 budget are freezes on minimum wage increases, cuts to national insurance, education and welfare, increases on the gas tax, a NIS 3 billion cut to defense and plenty of more fun stuff.

Tempering the bad news is a short story about the director general of the treasury saying that they aren’t talking about new tax increases. And here we were so close to Chai VAT.

Israel Hayom, which has been mostly positive toward the economic package (likely thanks to owner Sheldon Adelson’s friendship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu), splashes the ugly number 17 across its front page as in “From midnight: 17% Value Added Tax.” Inside, a number of talking heads wax supportive of the package, even if it’s not an ideal situation. Hezi Shternlicht writes that it might have been better for certain ministries to be cut further rather than raise taxes, but political realities made that impossible: “It’s clear that there are bigger and fatter holes. But apart from increasing the cuts, there’s no escape from raising taxes.”

Don’t run to Iran

Yedioth leads off its paper with the quote “Don’t hit Iran,” and a line-up of familiar faces: IDF chief Benny Gantz, air force chief Amir Eshel, Mossad head Tamir Pardo and Shin Bet head Yoram Cohen. So who said it? None of them! Though they’ve all made statements kinda leaning toward that, which is influencing the US’s thinking on the subject, according to the paper.

The real story, though, is that the US will reportedly not hit Iran before a year and a half from now, when they will strike the mullahs down with all their might. The story details that Washington is adamant against Israel going it alone and that they are content to wait until Tehran is on the cusp of the point of no return. The story is based on closed-doors conversations between American officials and Israeli leaders, though it is unfortunately completely unsourced, calling its reliability into question.

Odds and eagles

As if the papers needed some more bad news, the release of a study showing that children in the center of the country have a higher incidence of cancer than those elsewhere gets wide coverage. While 18 out of 100,000 children in Tel Aviv and the center suffer from the disease, in the north and in the West Bank, the incidence is 15 out of 100,000. (The rest of the country is 17 out of 100,000.) The good news? Some 80% of those kids recover, though the number shows that Jewish kids (83.2%) have a higher survival rate than Arab ones (72.8%).

Maariv reports on a little bit of good news: The eagles of the Gamla reserve, in the Golan, are starting to come back from the edge of disappearance. There are only six eagles left in the reserve, but while normally only some 30% percent of chicklets make it into adulthood, a recent hatching saw three out of four birds beat the odds. The three newcomers will soon be able to take to the skies, leading to cautious hopes that the community is its way to making a comeback.

Haaretz’s main editorial tackles an oft-overlooked issues, the taking over of public beaches by commercial interests, specifically beach chair renters, and continuing construction along the seasides, which threaten access and preservation. “Eight years ago a law to ensure the beaches’ protection was enacted, and it improved the situation, especially by halting seaside building plans. But in view of how commercial bodies are taking over the beaches, the law and its enforcement are still a far cry from keeping most of the beaches open to the public, free of charge.”

In Israel Hayom, playwright Joshua Sobol warns against embarking on an unneeded war against Iran. “Were the left Machiavellian, self-loathing and soulless, it would wish for the government to embark on a dangerous war, to bring out the fall of the rightist regime. But since the left, rightly called ‘beautiful of soul,’ worries about the fate of the country and its future more than any other consideration, it enlists all its might and influence to prevent a superfluous war, in the hope that regime change in Israel will come as a result of preferences and not as the fruit of a national disaster that came about from an unneeded war.”

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