אביגדור ליברמן
Avigdor Liberman
Photo: Avi Moalem
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yaakov Litzman

Netanyahu's coronavirus circus

Opinion: Without a proper rehabilitation plan for the economy and better handling of the health crisis, the day we declare victory over the virus will also be the day we announce the death of countless Israelis businesses

Avigdor Liberman |
Published: 03.23.20 , 22:47
Like any Israeli citizen these days, I am full of pride and admiration for our medical teams. They are some of the best in the world, working day and night to fight the deadly coronavirus.
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  • But could we say the same about our decision-makers? The answer is a resounding "no."
    בנימין נתניהו הצהרה נגיף קורונהבנימין נתניהו הצהרה נגיף קורונה
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yaakov Litzman
    (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky )
    This circus run by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yaakov Litzman is ridiculous and insulting and only serves to increase feelings of uncertainty among the people of Israel.
    We are caught in an absurd situation, with a caretaker government in situ for more than a year, a paralyzed Knesset, no functioning security cabinet and no oversight of the government actions.
    This is an ideal scenario for Netanyahu. He doesn't care about the checks and balances that serve as a core component of every democratic state.
    Netanyahu's fear and hysteria at the possible replacement of Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, his threats and verbal bullying as he conditions unity government talks on keeping his lackey in place, only prove how critical it is now to remove Edelstein.
    הפגנה מול ביתו של אדלשטייןהפגנה מול ביתו של אדלשטיין
    Israeli protest at the Knesset over Yuli Edelstein's refusal to step down as parliament speaker
    (Photo: Shmulik Davidpur)
    More alarming, our healthcare is in the hands of a Haredi rabbi turned minister who is neither a doctor nor a professional and only cares about one sector of the population.
    The prime minister lives in the shadow of his indictments, political interests and scaremongering, usurping precious air time every evening and immersing himself in political polls, laying the groundwork for a fourth election.
    I ask you, Mr. Netanyahu: where is your relief plan for small businesses? Why is the board of the Bank of Israel silent on matters such as the state of the economy or credit lines for Israelis?
    שוק מחנה יהודה בירושלים ריק בעקבות הקורונהשוק מחנה יהודה בירושלים ריק בעקבות הקורונה
    An empty Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem shuttered by police
    (Photo: TPS)
    Under what circumstances will we begin to restore our economy, restoring parts of it at least to normal functioning even with the threat of the coronavirus?
    Some predictions already warn of one million people unemployed, zero percent growth and a budget deficit nearing NIS 50 billion (around $13 billion).
    In other words, there's a real danger of a deep recession that could set the economy back to the 1970s.
    Tourism, hotels, airlines, small businesses (including over 13,000 restaurants) and other industries will never be the same. Significant damage will be done to savings, pensions and funds.
    Without an organized plan to rehabilitate the economy and better handling of the coronavirus crisis, the day we announce victory over COVID-19 will also be the day we announce the death of countless businesses in Israel.
    The real issue is how much to put into the fiscal safety net that the government gives the public and the cost to the Israeli economy.
    Austria, a country about the size of Israel, has managed to allocate funds amounting to 38 billion euros, about NIS 150 billion.
    שוק הכרמלשוק הכרמל
    Police shut down Carmel Market in Tel Aviv
    (Photo: AP)
    Do we even have NIS 150 billion? Should the state issue bonds to the public as it used to help the country recover from its wars? Should it increase the deficit? How will this affect Israel's economic rating in the international markets?
    These are all very complicated questions that require determination and national consensus.
    I am devising a full economic plan that I will make public soon, but we must immediately take the following steps:
    1. A declared commitment by the government that salaried workers making under NIS 6,000 a month will be fully compensated.
    2. Cancellation of municipal taxes, VAT and income tax for industries particularly affected by the crisis or businesses that have stopped operating under government directives.
    It is absurd when restaurants, gyms, barbershops and beauty salons that cannot generate income due to the government's directives must still pay government taxes.
    These steps are not possible without ministers and MKs setting a personal example by taking pay cuts and limiting their staff.
    We must set our egos aside and establish a unity government immediately to fight the coronavirus and save the economy.
    Israel has come out of major crises before despite people's political differences. There is no reason we cannot do it again - together, hand in hand.

    Avigdor Liberman is a member of the Knesset and head of the Yisrael Beytenu party
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