Netanyahu: Government Raising Taxes to Give Ra’am Party ‘Billions of Shekalim’

YERUSHALAYIM -
Mansour Abbas, head of the Islamist Ra’am party. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The government is raising taxes in order to give Ra’am leader MK Mansour Abbas over NIS 50 billion ($15.5 billion), opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu (Likud) said Monday afternoon after the Cabinet approved the 2021-2022 state budget.

Speaking at the Besheva Conference, Netanyahu said, “In the past few weeks I’ve managed to sleep well at night without being woken up by the red phone, but I’m worried today because the current government is heading down a path that is dangerous for Israel. It is projecting weakness and confusion. In six weeks, they have racked up failures on every main issue – the fight against COVID, the fight against Iran, in economics and in diplomacy. We are once again learning how easy it is to ruin what we built through years of hard work.”

Netanyahu warned that Iran was making progress to nuclearization and said the new government “wasn’t doing anything about it.”

“Iran is an existential threat and faced with an existential threat, you fight back by any means possible. This government agreed to a policy of ‘no surprises’ [for the Biden administration], and thus have tied our hands. What, have we become a satellite state? If we don’t have total independence to act against Iran, we have no independence at all. If it weren’t for our actions, both operationally and in diplomacy and outreach, Iran would long since have amassed an arsenal of nuclear weapons [to use] against us,” Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu also said that the Bennett-Lapid government was “failing” when it came to the economy.

“We handed them an economy that was in almost the best shape in the world, and what is the government doing, after promising not to raise taxes? It levies taxes on the citizens of Israel – raising the price of electricity, taxing online purchases from outside Israel, raising the price of doctor’s visits, raising the price of public transportation and more,” he said.

“They’re doing this to fund the NIS 50 billion shekels they promised to Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas. Instead of raising taxes, the government should lower taxes and leave more money in the people’s pockets,” Netanyahu concluded.

Meanwhile, the Joint Arab List also had harsh criticism of Abbas and his fellow party members’ positions on the budget.

After Abbas commented that the newly passed budget accounted for “all the needs” of the Arab sector, chairman of the Joint Arab List MK Ahmad Tibi told Army Radio that “we are not happy with the budget. It’s not the change we wanted for Arab society.”

“When you’re part of the coalition and forced time and time again to vote against your conscience, you get a few billion more from the coalition to keep swallowing those toads,” Tibi said, referring to Abbas. “In practice, what happens is that a third of the budget for the 922 plan [for economic development in the Arab sector] passed, and unfortunately, all the obstacles to it that existed previously remain in place under this government,” he added.

As of Monday, despite the Joint Arab List’s criticism of the coalition and Ra’am, the list did not intend to vote against or abstain from the vote to pass the budget.

A senior official in the Joint Arab List told Yisrael Hayom that “as an opposition party, our job is to topple this bad government, but the alternative is to allow a government under Netanyahu to be formed in its place – and from our perspective, that is a worse option. We have understandings and agreements in principle with the coalition leaders and it looks like we’ll support the budget they want to pass.”