Dozens of southern residents interrupted a Knesset Finance Committee meeting Wednesday morning, protesting that, instead of discussing aid to their region that was hard-hit in the Hamas rocket war, the committee was debating a 0% VAT housing bill.
Shouting “Help us with the war damages,” the residents of the south forced their way into the discussion of a law introduced by Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid), which would let those who served at least 18 months in the IDF save 18% on VAT in buying their first home valued up to NIS 1.6 million.
There is strong opposition to the law, both due to the fact that it discriminates against Arab citizens and chareidim who do not serve in the IDF, and for economic reasons.
“Let the residents of the south speak! This is a shame and a disgrace,” declared MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni (UTJ) in the meeting. “The government is silencing the residents of the south. They came from war, and instead of dealing with this dangerous caprice of Yair Lapid that will endanger the Israeli economy, the government should listen to the southerners.”
Finance Committee Chairman Nissan Slomiansky (Jewish Home) gave in to the protesters, allowing the committee to take up their claims.
Slomiansky insisted, however, that “the Finance Committee under my direction is doing all it can to help residents of the south, and after it quickly approved compensation, including advance payments already paid to businesses and residents of the Gaza envelope for NIS 1.5 billion, it will continue to hold serious debates on the topic.”
The chairman also accused the opposition of bringing the residents in to distract the committee from the controversial VAT law, and said that it was a cynical ploy that “embarrasses the Knesset.”