Poll: Israelis say defund settlements to balance budget

Nearly 82% of respondents from across political spectrum agree that funds for West Bank development should be cut first

Illustrative photo of a construction site in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, December 2012 (AP/Dan Balilty)
Illustrative photo of a construction site in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, December 2012 (AP/Dan Balilty)

More than four-fifths of Israelis surveyed by a new poll believe that in order to balance the country’s overwhelming national deficit, cuts should be made to funds earmarked for construction in West Bank settlements.

According to the survey, which was conducted by the Panels research institute among 600 people, 81.9% think settlements should be the first source of budget cuts, followed by infrastructure (50.5%) and defense (40%).

Only about 13% of interviewees said that cuts should be made to the health and welfare budgets.

According to the Panels institute, the majority of respondents who characterized themselves as right wing also supported diverting funds from the settlements to help balance the budget.

The survey was released just one day after a Finance Ministry report revealed that the budget deficit for 2012 was 4.2% of Israel’s gross domestic product (GDP), more than double what had been projected for the year.

Higher spending and lower-than-expected tax revenues were to blame for the deficit, according to the ministry report.

In a Times of Israel poll released last week, 43% of likely voters surveyed said that economic issues are the most important concerns facing the next government.

Those results are consistent with the Panels institute survey, which found that 58% of the respondents said it was important that their party of choice publicly state its economic position before the January 22 elections.

Seventy-one percent of those surveyed said that the government should increase the number of items that are included in the state-subsidized goods package.

Twenty-two percent of respondents said that the government should lower the VAT (value-added tax), which is currently at 17%, and 20% supported raising taxes on alcohol and cigarettes. Nineteen percent supported increasing the tax rate on capital gains.

Respondents were also asked what they believe should be the top priority for the next government’s budget allocations. Sixty-six percent voted for health, with a very high level of support for increasing the current health basket; 60% said that the next government should focus on education; and 58% said industry. Only 20% believe the government should invest in public infrastructure with the deficit so large.

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