Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday presented an “emergency plan” to address the rising cost of living in Israel as political campaigns heated up ahead of November’s elections.
His political opponents slammed the proposals as “disconnected” and pointed out that living costs soared during Netanyahu’s long period as prime minister.
In a 17-minute long video uploaded to his official social media accounts, Netanyahu presented his Likud party’s proposals for lowering prices in Israel.
“Our country is going through a severe economic crisis. This doesn’t have to be the case. It is possible to get out of it,” Netanyahu said. “Only a stable government, only a stable national government, will lower prices.”
“Everyone knows the world is undergoing an economic crisis, which was created by the pandemic and by the war in Ukraine. No one denies that, but a global economic crisis is not an excuse for idleness,” he said.
He said that if elected he would immediately lower electricity, gas and water prices, as well as freeze the rates for municipal taxes, known in Israel as “arnona,” for a year. These steps would cause a domino effect of falling prices, he said.
He also stressed the need to lower tariffs and income taxes in order to deal with rising food prices.
For housing prices, a leading economic concern for Israelis, he proposed subsidizing building plots for young couples, incentivizing contractors to carry out construction products more quickly, and issuing government bonds linked to housing costs, which he said would decrease demand.
He also vowed to provide free pre-school programs for children under the age of three.
“That will lower expenses by tens of thousands of shekels for families with little children, will allow parents to work and will grow the economy,” Netanyahu said, adding that the process would need to be done gradually.
He said the funds required to implement his plan would come from “huge tax surpluses,” which he said were expected to reach NIS 60 billion this year, and from making the state budget “more efficient.”
Prime Minister Yair Lapid kicked off his Yesh Atid party’s election campaign on Wednesday, also promising to lower the cost of living in Israel and taking a dig at Netanyahu. During Netanyahu’s time as prime minister, the cost of living climbed, especially for housing.
“We are leading the fight against a rise in the cost of living,” Lapid told a crowd of supporters at an event held in Tel Aviv.
“For 15 years nobody did anything, they did not touch it,” he said, apparently referring to Netanyahu’s 12 consecutive years as prime minister before Naftali Bennett took power last year, plus Netanyahu’s three years as premier in the 1990s.
“Suddenly Netanyahu learns how to fill up a car? He goes to a gas station, and even does it exactly when we have just brought gas prices down,” Lapid said. Gas prices dropped significantly on Sunday after steadily rising for months.
Lapid’s Yesh Atid party said in a statement that Netanyahu was “continuing his disconnected fake news campaign to hide the fact that for 15 years he neglected” the economy.
“The change government led by Lapid will continue to secure achievements in the struggle to lower the cost of living for Israeli citizens,” the statement said.
The party also put out a video showing Netanyahu making economic promises in the past.
חלאס עם החרטוטים. 15 שנה הזנחת את אזרחי ישראל. אנחנו נמשיך לתקן. pic.twitter.com/GA8rWMu6aK
— ???? יש עתיד (@YeshAtidParty) August 3, 2022
The Blue and White and New Hope parties, which joined forces last month for the election, lashed Netanyahu for blocking the passage of a state budget in 2020, which allowed him to go to elections without having to hand Gantz the premiership as part of their coalition agreement. The government failed to pass a budget for over three years of political turmoil, with heavy ramifications for the economy, until Bennett’s coalition passed a new budget last year. Netanyahu’s critics said he was clinging to power in order to fight corruption charges against him.
Blue and White and New Hope said in a Wednesday statement, “Someone who blocked the state budget out of personal and legal considerations, who put their own benefit ahead of the state and badly hurt Israel’s economy, is not worthy and cannot promote any solution for the economy.”
“After elections, we will establish a broad and stable government that will get Israel out of this crisis, without him,” Blue and White said.