Bennett says Labor chief’s economic plan will turn Israel into Venezuela

Amir Peretz calls United Right member a ‘hilltop youth’ for decrying his proposals as ‘extreme socialism’

Amir Peretz (R) walks by Naftali Bennett during a Knesset plenum session on January 21, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Amir Peretz (R) walks by Naftali Bennett during a Knesset plenum session on January 21, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Labor Party chief Amir Peretz hit back at the United Right’s Naftali Bennett for criticizing his newly unveiled economic plan as “extreme socialism” that would turn Israel into Venezuela.

At a press conference Monday, Peretz vowed to push economic policies that would counter Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “piggish capitalism,” saying the Israeli leader’s moves had led to Israelis being “abandoned” by the government.

Among the promises in the economic plan were a minimum wage hike to NIS 40 ($11.50) per hour from NIS 29.12 ($8.40); government construction of 200,000 new housing units; free education from birth; higher monthly pensions for seniors; exemption of 100 basic goods from value-added tax; and higher disability pensions.

Labor, which is running with Orly-Levy Abekasis’s Gesher party in the September 17 elections, said it would fund its plan by raising marginal tax rates on monthly incomes over NIS 44,000; making the marginal tax rate on capital gains equivalent to income; canceling special earmarked funds in coalition agreements; ending “special budgets” for West Bank settlements outside of the major blocs; and allowing government debt to increase as a percentage of gross domestic product, among other measures.

Labor Party leader Amir Peretz speaks at a press conference to unroll Labor-Gesher’s economic plan on August 12, 2019. (Flash90)

In a Facebook post on the Labor-Gesher plan, Bennett said while he believed Peretz has good intentions, his economic proposals would lead to economic “disasters.”

“The biggest danger [to Israel] is becoming a backward socialist country under Finance Minister Amir Peretz,” Bennett wrote.

New Right party member Naftali Bennett arrives to a meeting with Union of Right-Wing Parties head Rafi Peretz, after announcing their electoral alliance, at the Ramada Hotel in Jerusalem, on July 28, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Bennett warned Peretz’s proposal would turn Israel from the “Switzerland of the Middle East” into Venezuela, where the International Monetary Fund predicted inflation would reach 10 million percent this year and whose economy has undergone significant contraction.

“Extreme socialism… will erode the economic and national strength of Israel and prevent hundreds of thousands of Jews from moving to a failing, weak and unstable country,” Bennett said.

Responding to Bennett, Peretz compared the United Right MK to far-right youth, known as “hilltop youth.”

“Bennett is a delusional and disconnected hilltop youth,” Peretz said in a statement. “Bennett is sure Israel needs to be a country for millionaires only. Labor-Gesher will take care of people.”

Bennett and Peretz previously served together in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government from 2013 to 2014, when the former was economy minister and the latter environmental protection minister for Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua party.

Peretz, a former head of the Histradut labor federation, was reelected Labor leader in July after the party slumped to six seats in April’s elections for the Knesset, the worst ever result for the party, which in its previous iterations led Israel for nearly 30 years after its founding.

Recent polls have forecast Labor-Gesher will pick up five or six seats in the upcoming vote.

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