In marmur, Our Virtual Mishkan

Netanyahu’s Million Shekel Tax Break

A Hebrew saying has it that a man is known by his kisso, kosso and ka’asso, his tipping, tipple and temper. I have never read anything about Prime Minister Netanyahu’s drinking habits or his temper, but we read a lot about his attitude to money. Part of his trial, due to start next month, is about taking bribes.

In anticipation, the Knesset Finance Committee approved ostensibly overdue tax benefits for Mr. Netanyahu amounting to about one million shekel while the country is facing an unprecedented economic crisis with about a million Israelis out of work and, presumably, out of income.

A cartoon in Ha’aretz illustrated the event by showing the prime minister and his wife pushing a cart full of (a million) shekels through a street lined with homeless citizens and beggars.

Last year Forbes estimated Netanyahu being worth some 50 million shekels. Though he lives in the official residence, he owns homes in Caesarea on the coast and in Jerusalem’s prime neighborhood of Rehavia. Apparently, in addition to the official residence, at least one of them is maintained by the state.

So why did he claim the tax benefit? Because it said to be legal and, as his popularity in the country is soaring, he can get away with it. The words of Tamar Zandberg of Meretz may be true but few citizens seem to care: “Never has any decision seemed so detached, impudent and delusional as a tax benefit  to a prime minister accused of bribery while a million unemployed people do not know if they will return to work.” He is leading in the polls and that is the only thing that counts, it seems.

Yes, some Israelis may agree with Zandberg. They protested outside the prime minister’s official residence as a reflection of their anger and frustration, but, by all accounts alas, not as evidence of the mood of most Israelis. They do not seem to remember Netanyahu’s predecessors most of whom were not in politics to make money: for example, Menachem Begin, the legendary leader of Netanyahu’s Likud party, who lived in a modest apartment in Tel Aviv till the day he died.

Even Benny Gantz, whose party made it possible for Netanyahu to form a government and who, we had hoped, would act as a corrective to the prime minister’s excesses, stated that the tax break was justified, even if the timing was unfortunate. Some corrective!

It seems that the members of the Knesset Finance Committee were not even troubled by the timing. By all accounts, they may reflect the views of most of those who elected them.

We live in interesting times in Israel, God help us.

Jerusalem 29.6.20                                                                                                                 Dow Marmur

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