A senior member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party on Friday dismissed assertions that some Israelis who have lost their jobs amid the coronavirus pandemic don’t have enough money for food as “bullshit.”
Appearing on the Channel 12 talk show “Ofira and Berkovic,” minister without portfolio Tzachi Hanegbi was pressed on Netanyahu’s response to the economic fallout accompanying the government restrictions put in place to contain the COVID-19 outbreak, with the program’s hosts Ofira Asayag and Eyal Berkovic repeatedly saying some Israelis have nothing to eat.
“This nonsense that people have nothing to eat is bullshit. Bullshit,” Hanegbi said. “There are a million people who, most of them, until now, have received unemployment payments… There are businesses that were hurt and they’re in serious distress. [But] saying ‘there’s nothing to eat’ is populism.”
Following pushback from the interviewers, Hanegbi insisted the expression was “exaggerated” and said he didn’t agree with it.
Hanegbi, who was called “out of touch” by the hosts, retorted that it was they who were out of touch.
“You don’t know what populism is. It’s yelling and yelling,” he said. “You can’t pour out money without limit.”
Hanegbi’s comments came amid growing criticism of Netanyahu’s response to the pandemic. According to a Channel 12 poll earlier this week, 35 percent of Israelis approve of the premier’s handling of the economic aspects of the virus, while 58% gave him a thumbs down.
When asked the same question in a poll on May 8, 53% had approved and 43% disapproved.
Netanyahu and Likud Finance Minister Israel Katz have announced a series of measures in recent days to help Israelis hurt economically by the virus, including extending eligibility for unemployment payments through mid-August and rolling out a financial aid package for business owners.
According to the Globes business daily, the unemployment rate in Israel is currently at 21%, with over 800,000 Israelis jobless, up from under 4% before the start of the pandemic.