Help Riki Cohen, help the poor, Lapid says
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Help Riki Cohen, help the poor, Lapid says

Defending fictional teacher at top of Finance Ministry agenda, treasury chief says strong middle class needed to support less well-off

Outgoing Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer presents the 2012 annual economic report to new Finance Minister Yair Lapid, on April 2, 2013. (photo credit: Anat Hamami/Finance Ministry)
Outgoing Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer presents the 2012 annual economic report to new Finance Minister Yair Lapid, on April 2, 2013. (photo credit: Anat Hamami/Finance Ministry)

Finance Minister Yair Lapid responded to the firestorm over the middle class he created earlier this week, writing on Facebook that people like his fictional Riki Cohen need government attention to keep the state strong.

On Sunday, Lapid posted on Facebook that he put Riki Cohen, a fictional Hadera teacher making NIS 20,000 a month together with her husband but unable to afford a mortgage, at the top of the Finance Ministry’s agenda.

The posting sparked days of backlash, as opposition politicians and pundits pointed out that the Cohen family’s salary was higher than that of 80 percent of Israelis and that the ministry should help the poor before the upper middle class.

However, Lapid said Friday that the Cohens and their ilk need to be taken care of first if the state is to be able to provide for the poor.

“I agree that there are people who have it much harder, but without a strong middle class paying taxes, how will we help the poor? From what money?” he wrote.

Lapid also defended the salary he gave the Cohens, saying that NIS 20,000 gross was the average for an Israeli family with two workers.

“Riki and her husband net NIS 14,000, and if they pay a mortgage and raise three kids, it’s also not easy for them,” he wrote.

According to state figures, the average gross salary for Israelis in 2012 was NIS 9,022.  

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