The ultra-orthodox Shas party will seek to pass a “rich tax” on the wealthiest Israelis to help fund increased welfare programs for the country’s poorest, the party’s leader Aryeh Deri said this week.
Shas will also look to narrow the income and employment gaps between Ashkenazi Jews of European descent and Mizrahi Jews of Middle Eastern and African descent in fields, Deri said in an online campaign video released Sunday.
The party would work for “transparent” Israelis, the poor and disadvantaged, Deri said.
“The ‘rich tax’ from Shas is going to take from the satisfied, partying Israel, the Israel with the fancy restaurants that are full, and the shopping malls that are stuffed full, [the Israel] with two holidays abroad every year, and give it to the two million transparent Israelis,” he said.
The Shas campaign will go beyond the message of spreading the wealth. Deri also called for improving the social standing of Israelis of Mizrahi origins.
The party has historically counted Mizrahi Jews as its voter base, and has campaigned on bread-and-butter welfare issues that cater to the community, many of whose members fall below the poverty line.
“You can see that there aren’t enough Mizrahi judges, and Mizrahi [university] lecturers,” he declared. “Today, only in the prisons are there more Mizrahi people than Ashkenazi.”
Deri’s plans include raising taxes on high incomes, luxury dwellings, and securities markets, and lowering the tax breaks given to large companies as a means of encouraging investment. He promised to cancel the value-added tax on basic grocery goods and household items.
He also vowed that any new housing construction would have a certain percentage, as high as 7.5%, set aside for public housing for the poor.
The video also included a short clip of the deceased spiritual leader of Shas, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, calling to help the poor.
Recent polls show Shas winning between five and seven Knesset seats, far lower than its current 11.
Shas has been hurt in the polls by the creation of the rival Yachad party by former faction head Eli Yishai, who also claims Yosef as a spiritual guide.