Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

by Keren Setton

As the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic in Israel becomes more widespread, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government are under fire for their “failure to provide proper security for those hit by the crisis.”

When the pandemic reached Israel in March, the country’s economy was at one of its strongest periods. The unemployment rate hit a record low with less than four percent and other parameters have good numbers.

Within weeks from the beginning of the outbreak, the unemployment rate climbed to around twenty percent. As restrictions were eased, some people got their jobs back. However, in recent days, as there has been an up-tick in virus cases and many restrictions have been reinstated, people have been sent back home.

“There is a huge discrepancy between what has been declared and what is being carried out,” said Benjamin Bental, professor of economics at the University of Haifa.

In the beginning of the crisis, Netanyahu’s approval ratings were high. As the crisis deepened, Israelis showed less faith in his management skills.

On Wednesday he held a series of meetings aimed at creating a “corona package” to assist the economy. The program was to be published later that day, but the deadline was missed. The plan is supposed to include extended unemployment payment and delay loan payments.

On Thursday, some of Israel’s leading musicians called for a tax boycott pending better support for self-employed workers. Demonstrations have been staged. Some business owners have found creative ways to circumvent new restrictions in order to keep their businesses open. There is an increasing crisis of confidence between the people and the government.

“People need to see the horizon,” said Danny Gigi, head of the 121 Engine for Social Change organization. “They need an occupational safety net.”

“The crisis exposed even further the weak points in the Israeli economy,” Bental told Xinhua. “There are inconsistencies, inability to carry out programs, and inability to set-up a national coordinated program.”

Many countries have increased expenditure and national debt in order to deal with the pandemic and its fallout.

“They are still acting as if we are not in a crisis,” Gigi told Xinhua. “They are fixated on a paradigm that we need to maintain the budget, not to go into debt. What we need now is massive government spending and investment, and that is the only way out of a recession.” Enditem

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