Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is planning to unveil a new economic plan to provide grants and financial aid to small business owners in an effort to boost his standing with some 500,000 Israelis in that category ahead of the March 23 election, Channel 13 News reported Friday.
The report said Netanyahu is planning a blitz of diplomatic and economic “fireworks” in March, chief of which will be significant boons for businesses hurt by the pandemic.
It said the premier has been holding deliberations on the matter with aides in recent days.
This week saw the head of an influential protest group representing independent business owners announcing he will run as part of the right-wing Yamina party in the coming election.
Abir Kara, who leads the “I Am Shulman” group, said in a joint statement with Yamina that he would be joining the party’s electoral slate and lending his organization’s support to helping it succeed in the March election.
Netanyahu implored members of the group to back his Likud party during a Zoom meeting last week, video of which was leaked to Israeli television. According to Channel 12, the meeting took place after Kara rejected Netanyahu’s offer to join Likud.
Business owners have long complained of unfair treatment by the government, and during the pandemic they have accused officials of abandoning them, providing lackluster support while the lengthy economic shutdowns have caused tens of thousands of businesses to collapse and many others to barely make ends meet.
Retail stores, malls, street-level stores, and restaurants have been among those placed under the strictest and most prolonged restrictions during the virus outbreak, forcing many out of business. The culture world and tourism sector have has also been largely shuttered for nearly a year now.
The government has provided bimonthly grants to businesses that have lost work, but these have said the sums are woefully insufficient and many can barely keep their head above the water.
Netanyahu’s Likud has been polling at around 30 seats in the next election, but it remains unclear whether he will be able to muster a parliamentary majority in the coming election, Israel’s fourth in two years, amid an ongoing political crisis.
The prime minister has in recent weeks also pivoted to courting the Arab public, with allies saying he hopes to win a few seats from the community he has largely shunned and even demonized in the past.
This week he told a group of Arab mayors that he would pass a wide-ranging plan to combat violence and crime that has plagued their communities, likening the struggle against organized crime to the fight against terrorism.