Gafni: Finance Ministry ‘Going Back on Its Word’

YERUSHALAYIM -

The outgoing chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee Rabbi Moshe Gafni (UTJ) isn’t going out quietly.

Eighteen months after a prolonged and bitter doctors’ strike was settled in part by a promise that young physicians be given financial incentives to work in the periphery, Rabbi Gafni accused the Finance Ministry of “going back on its word,” The Jerusalem Post reported on Wednesday.

Recently disclosed Ministry plans for a 48 percent tax on state grants to those who go to work outside the central region where doctors are in short supply, will effectively violate the agreement. If the Ministry doesn’t reconsider, he suggested that the Israel Medical Association, which represents the doctors in contractual negotiations, sue the Ministry for reneging on the agreement.

He also asked the committee’s legal adviser to send the protocol of the discussion to District Court Judge Hila Grestel, who handled a case involving the strike at the time.

For his part, Rabbi Gafni said he would fight for recognition of the grants as “scholarships,” which are not subject to taxation.

During what was described as “a tension-filled meeting,” the UTJ leader expressed his displeasure over the fact that senior officials from the Tax Authority did not arrive for the Finance Committee meeting.

Deputy Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman (UTJ), commented that “for the first time in Israel, doctors prefer to go to the periphery to work, and now the state itself destroys the agreement with its own hands.”

Miri Cohen, of the Tax Authority’s legal department, said the authority had not yet decided whether to accept the committee’s recommendations about taxation on the grant.