During a discussion in the Knesset on several recent reports delineating the depth and reach of poverty in Israel, MK Rabbi Meir Porush took the opportunity to point out what he said was the “hypocrisy” of Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party – which now is criticizing the government for failing to battle poverty effectively, but, said Rabbi Porush, was itself largely responsible for the problem.
At issue was a petition passed around to Knesset members which demands the government take immediate steps to alleviate poverty in Israel – or immediately resign. A report last week by the National Insurance Institute (Bituach Leumi) said that there were some 1.7 million people in Israel who were poor, of them 776,500 children. According to the data, one out of every three Israeli children is poor. Among chareidi families, the poverty rates was 54.3%, and two-thirds of chareidi children were below the poverty line.
So far, 40 MKs have signed the petition, and as a result the plenum will hold a special session dedicated to the issue of poverty. But Rabbi Porush said that the attack on the government – at least on the part of Yesh Atid’s MKs – was not legitimate, and that their signatures should be dismissed from the petition.
“How can we win the war on poverty? By stopping the war on families with large numbers of children,” said MK Rabbi Porush. “When we stop reducing the transfer payments to such families and assist, instead of punish, families with large numbers of children, we will make a dent in poverty.
“After looking at the signatures on the petition, I was a bit taken aback,” he said. “I can understand the Zionist Camp MKs signing it, as they led the opposition in the last election. The same for the United Arab List MKs, and Meretz MKs.
“But I was very surprised at the addition of signatures by Yesh Atid,” said Rabbi Porush. “Although now in the opposition, they were part and parcel of the last government – in fact, their party’s leader, was Finance Minister, and his main activity was cutting the child allowance payments. And does the CBS poverty report not emphasize the high number of children living in poverty? It seems clear that there is a connection between the two.
“How can you dare attack the government,” said Rabbi Porush, directing his comments at Yesh Atid MKs. “You should be ashamed of yourselves. If there is poverty today, if there are parents who cannot feed their children, if there are parents who can’t afford to buy medicine for their kids, it’s because of you.”