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Tag: Yuval Steinitz

Over 275,000 In Israel’s Largest Social Revolt Demonstrations

Over 200,000 in Israel's Largest Social Uprising

Over 200,000 in Israel's Largest Social Uprising

It was 70,000 two hours ago, then it started to rise and its still going strong. Israel Rail is asking people to step off the trains as more people are trying to get to the demonstrations. People have had enough. Tired of the political side stepping the injustice, tired of the 16% VAT, tired of carrying on their backs the orthodox organizations that leach on the rest of the population. Not being able to get to a home because of the cost of living. Tired of funding the pathetic excuse for government ministers whose only concern is stuffing their own pockets with complete disregard to the public, and office they are supposed to uphold. The public is demanding social justice. This can’t be ignored. This will not go away.

Over 200,000 in Tel Aviv

Over 200,000 in Tel Aviv

Who is missing in this demonstration? The orthodox groups and political representatives are not here. They are not here because they are partly to blame for the fleecing of the country and its people.

Israel has had a tradition of quite acceptance to what its leaders have dictated. Constantly playing on the fear of a lower defense budget. This is a time of change. This time the spell is broken. Empty promises by Benjamin Netanyahu and his finance minister, Yuval Steinitz and constant under estimation of this uprising is turning into the ideal climate for this fire to burn. Tonight it’s burning bright, and can no longer be ignored.

We may not place Bibi in a steel cage and put him on trial but in an advanced, civilized society, this is as close as his going to get.

Pictured Ynet

Stanley Fischer, Supported by Fayyad, Turned Down by IMF as Leader Candidate

Governor of the Bank of Israel, Stanley Fischer, is credited with assisting Israel through the 2008 global financial crisis; he is criticized for funding Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Recently, Mr. Fischer formally announced his candidacy to lead the International Monetary Fund. While the selection process is a political one, Mr. Fischer has received support from Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, who said:

“Were it purely professional it would be hard-pressed to find a better person than Fischer.”

Salam Fayyad disputed Palestinian Authority Prime Minister supported Mr. Fischer, saying the Israeli would make a ”great managing director” for the IMF and is:

“A superb human being…He is supremely qualified for the job. Indeed, it’s difficult to see how one can be more qualified…”

On a side note, Hamas has refused to recognize Fayyad, a political independent, as Prime Minister. Fayyad received his PhD in economics from the University of Texas, as well as working for the IMF in the 1980s; so he is a good man to ask.

As mentioned, the recently announced “reconciliation” between the government in the West Bank, led by Fatah and the terrorist group Hamas in control of the Gaza Strip is threatening Fayyad’s political status.

But Monday night Fischer was notified that his candidacy was disqualified because of his age, 67. IMF rules state the Managing Director must be under 65 when taking office for the five-year position. Fischer was hoping the IMF board would waive the restriction, saying it is “not relevant today.”

Fischer is in the second year of his second five-year term as the chariman of Israel’s bank. He was hoping to take over at the IMF for Dominique Strauss-Kahn of France, who resigned on May 14 after his arrest on charges of attempted rape of a maid in a New York hotel.

Fischer had this to say:

“I will proudly and happily continue in my role as Governor of the Bank of Israel, to deal with the challenges facing the Bank of Israel and the Israeli economy. I would like to thank the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance for their unconditional support when I decided to submit my candidacy, and for their expressed hope that I will continue to serve as the Governor of the Bank of Israel – as I shall happily do…”

The finance minister of France, Christine Lagarde, is considered to be the front-runner in the IMF race. The final decision will be made toward the end of the month.

Fischer was the thesis adviser to Ben Bernanke, chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, when he was pursuing his doctorate in economics from MIT and is a former deputy managing director of the IMF.

Is Richard Goldstone An Anti-Semite?

Head of the UN fact finding Mission on Operation Cast Lead, Richard Goldstone, released in the Jerusalem Post an op-ed article, in defense of his, mainly Israeli and American criticizers. The article comes five weeks after the official release of the Goldstone Report.

Switzerland UN Gaza War CrimesThe President of the Human Rights Council announced the mandate that the Report was:

“to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law that might have been committed at any time in the context of the military operations that were conducted in Gaza during the period from 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009, whether before, during or after.”

Justice Goldstone maintained in the article that his intentions were entirely subjective. He reminded his enemies that he is former member of the South African Constitutional Court and former Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda; that he has a history of supporting the Jewish State, and served on the Board of Governors at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. And also that he was highly critical of the “alleged fraud and theft by governments and political leaders in a number of countries in connection with the United Nations Iraq Oil for Food program.”

He explained that

“In all of these, allegations [I] reached the highest political echelons. In every instance, I spoke out strongly in favor of full investigations and, where appropriate, criminal prosecutions. I have spoken out over the years on behalf of the International Bar Association against human rights violations in many countries, including Sri Lanka, China, Russia, Iran, Zimbabwe and Pakistan.”

Since the likes of Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz called him a Jewish “anti-Semite”; Goldstone felt the need to clear things up. “As A Jew” he wrote, “I felt a greater and not a lesser obligation to do so. It is well documented that as a condition of my participation I insisted upon and received an evenhanded mandate to investigate all sides and that is what we sought to do.”

Richard Falk, a Princeton University professor, and strong criticizer of the IDF in terms of alleged violations of Human Rights against Palestinians, predicts that “the weight of the report will be felt by world public opinion.

Happy Days Here Again?

Unemployment center
“They certainly look happy, don’t they?”

Happy days are here again
The skies above are clear again
So let’s sing a song of cheer again
Happy days are here again

Sung during the Great Depression, and composed by J. Yellen and M. Ager

Bank of Israel Chairman Stanley Fischer and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz appeared happy when it was announced that the numbers of unemployed Israelis had decreased to “only” 17.5 thousand new claims in Jun/July, as compared to 18.6 thousand during May, or a decrease of 5%. That, according to Steinitz, brings the total number of redundant workers down to “a more manageable level” of slightly less than a quarter million souls. Another statistic that appears to cause both Mr. Fischer and Steinitz to smile is that the number of people being fired from various jobs fell by 2.2.% as compared to previous months.

But if all this is supposed to be such great news, why are so many not smiling, or whistling modern versions of Happy Days are Here Again? And why did the Bank of Israel have to go out and purchase another 100 million dollars on top of the 250 million the bank bought a few days earlier to try to stem the continuing decline of the Greenback? Perhaps things aren’t as “happy” as Fischer and Steinitz want us to think?

During the summer months, unemployment figures always seem to drop a bit for a number of reasons, including many people finding temporary summer jobs, or taking a vacation due to their kids being out of school; or simply waiting for the job market to pick up again in the fall. This logic is particularly true for women who are now unemployed from high tech or similar higher paying positions, and have decided to be home with their children instead of having to pay for expensive day care; since the greatest day care “plans” around , school and pre-school, are both out on summer break.

Another factor deals with people who out of desperation have taken lower paying jobs as cashiers, security guards and even maintenance workers that pay only minimum wage or slightly higher; making them under employed as compared to their former status. All of this goes along with a statement made the other day by U.S. President Barack Obama, when he told a press meeting that “we are now seeing the light at the end of the tunnel regarding the end of the current recession”. He almost broke in a version of the Happy Days song himself while making this statement, apparently giving himself the credit for any improvement in the still faltering U.S. economy.

But getting back to what’s happening on this side of the pond, it’s still far too early to whistle any happy tunes; especially when many people’s unemployment benefits are about to run dry and local banks are calling on credit card companies to return payments due to lack of funds. We must also bear in mind that when that Happy Days song came out in 1929, the Great Depression had not even begun yet.

So who’s whistling this song now? Maybe Yuval and Stanley are – but a lot of folks aren’t!

Bibi gets a C on first 100 days in office

Prime Minister Binyamin (Bibi) Netanyahu has just completed his first 100 days in office, and judging on who’s score card you’re looking at, Netanyahu’s second go-around as Israel’s head of government hasn’t been very exciting – so far at least. The right-of-center Likud Party chairman and “spin-master” for creating his version of shaping future events in Israel and the Middle East, has overall not been given high marks by those who have rated his performance to date – including fellow right-wingers who expected something more concrete from the man who’s election campaign rhetoric spoke of much higher ideals and agendas than what has been demonstrated so far by him. Netanyahu’s recent trip to Washington, and his meeting with US President Barack Obama, did not turn out to be what he had hoped; and Bibi’s wife Sarah Netanyahu was completely snubbed by Obama’s wife, Michelle.

Bibi meeting Obama - check out the body language..Although Bibi finally did agree to the “two states for two peoples” idea, and to follow the road map that had originally been put forward by the Americans during the Bush Administration, the idea of a Palestinian State alongside Israel did not turn out to be positive enough for the Palestinians to accept outright (the West Bank Palestinians, that is – forget about the Hamas ones in Gaza) and was too “concession minded” to be accepted by most Likud party members, as well as other right-winged Israelis.

Trying of set right the economy, with the help of Bibi’s good friend Yuval Steinitz, who the Prime Minster chose to be his finance minister, has not worked well at all; and several proposed economic reforms had to be either canceled or altered following strong protests by the general public. What finally did get drafted appears to have been less than beneficial to those sections of Israeli society who are now the worst off in the current world economic slow down. Although he did succeed in getting a 2 year budget draft passed, his ‘flip-flopping’ on a number of financial issues was in sharp contrast to promises he made during the recent campaign. A good example of economic mind changing was in regard to first imposing then canceling the VAT on fruits and vegetables. His greatest critics have been Tzipi Livni and her Kadima Party, now in opposition.

And finally, there are the two prominent issues of the Iran nuclear problem (to attack or not to attack – that is the question) and the one dealing with captured Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit, for whose release Netanyahu had said would be the government’s top priority. This too has so far turned out to be “all show and no go” as the “separation” between Israel and Hamas is still too wide. “The Israelis dwelled too much on who would be released in the exchange and who would not; and this in the end killed the deal” said Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who had tried to lend a hand in broking the latest negotiations to free Schalit. This means that Schalit’s father, Noam, will most likely give bitter remarks about Netanyahu as a leader, as he did concerning the previous prime minister, Ehud Olmert.

So taking all of the above into account, the Prime Minister only gets a C on his First Quarter report card.

Bibi Folds

People power has apparently won concerning the Finance Ministry’s proposed plan to impose VAT on fruit and vegetables sold to Israeli consumers in open air markets as well as in regular supermarkets. After intense pressure from a number of groups, including fruit and vegetable vendors themselves (who staged wholesale dumping of their produce at open air souks around the country) and from coalition partner Shas (many of whose members are poor and have large families), Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu overrode Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz‘s to levy the now 16.5 VAT on farm produce, saying that “sometimes it’s necessary to listen to the will of the people”.

vegetable soukBut at the same time, however, the government is now formulating plans to increase the VAT on other items even further – to 17.5% – to make up for the 1.3 billion Shekel revenue short-fall that is expected to occur due to not imposing what is now known as the produce tax. Prior to the P.M.’s decision, many people were calling for Finance Minister Steinitz to resign. Those close to him say he is furious with the decision concerning the produce tax, and will not resign; even though opposition Kadima party members are calling this act “a sign of weakness” on the part of the present Likud party led government.

Raising the overall VAT another one percent will in the long run result in even more economic hardship than the VAT on fruits and veggies, as it will result in all other items, including staples like dairy items, bread, flour, cooking oil, and chickens being more expensive. Besides, it was argued that people would still find ways to circumvent paying VAT on produce purchases by buying from roadside stands and other black market fruit and veggie dealers. The idea to raise the VAT even more is something that had probably been in the Finance Ministry’s game plan since the new government assumed power in April, 2009. Despite a deep recession, the government has been desperately looking for ways to increase revenues without resorting to levying higher income taxes. Another thing that has become the new government’s problem is that the January Operation Cast Lead military operation left a big deficit in the previous government’s budget, which the new government inherited when assuming power. By gradually raising the VAT, the government is applying what is known as the salami technique in which they gradually raise the tax amount, bit by bit, like slicing a salami; until eventually they have the entire “salami” of increases with less protest from the general public.

As you can see, it’s obviously easier to get the entire salami, slice by slice, instead of trying to take the entire portion at once. The question now, however, is whether people are gullible enough to fall for this ploy; or whether they really can do anything about it, outside of outright rebellion.

Maybe Israelis will be more successful than the Iranians were at protesting government imposed policies. It all depends on how we like to eat our salami.

Priming the (gas) pump

Gasoline Pump
Aren’t those Israeli finance ministry people clever? It was just the other day when Yuval Steinitz, Bibi Netanyahu’s Finance Minister, was expressing he regrets over the decision to charge VAT on fruits and vegetable sold in open air and similar markets. The uproar this decision created resulted in the government deciding to back off from their unpopular decision, as trying to collect these revenues might prove to be a bit dangerous, to say the least. Besides, the poor folk have been battered enough, especially pensioners and other weaker elements of our society.

But wait – there’s better ways to fleece the public, and bless our government to come up with just the perfect to get extra money from everybody, both rich and poor alike. And that better way it to hike up the taxes on gasoline, as this can be collected automatically at source and won’t affect many of the poor folk as long as they don’t have car.
Raising the price of fuel by 30 Agorot a liter, about 7.33 US cents, will not only raise a nice amount of needed revenues but not cause a revolution either. When pepole don’t have a choice, they pay what they have to since they don’t have much of a choice otherwise. The new levy will raise the price on 95 octane unleaded to NS 5.79 per liter at self-service stations.
The new gasoline tariff will go along with other austerity measures, including increasing VAT (on all other goods and services) to 16.5%, increasing contribution amounts required for National Insurance, municipal rates increases, and other means. Since most really poor folk don’t own a car, they won’t get stung with higher gas prices. Just the rest of us will. Most likely employees driving lease cars will have to pay a bit more for this privilege – too bad! Most likely a “beer and booze tax is also in the works too. That’s also something the public has no control over. It’s either that or take off child allowances even more. And that will make government coalition partners (like Shas) head for the hills.

Bibi Sinks Deeper in The Mud

Binyamin NetanyahuThe rock group Depeche Mode has come and gone, and so has the Lag B’Omer wiener roast and marshmallow toast. But P.M. Bibi Netanyahu and his so-called Chancellor of the Exchequer, Yuval Steinitz, continue to sink in the financial quagmire, they seem to have created by trying to be clever with the Israeli public.

As their popularity reaches the point where they can both crawl under a snake’s belly, these two guys, especially the one supposedly in charge of the country’s purse, seem to find themselves literally pinned against the wall, from the side of public opinion.
To make matters even more pressing for Bibi and Co., the Finance Ministry’s budget planner, Ram Belinkov, announced his resignation today. Are the “rats” beginning to leave the sinking ship?

Meanwhile, talk of more firings from work places will mean even more people applying for unemployment benefits – if they are even entitled to receive them.

The more affluent people will have to pay more, and those earning NS 80,000 or more per month will have to pay a higher amount of National Insurance contribution. Purchasers of luxury cars, especially gasoline guzzling SUV’s, will have to pay higher purchase taxes. But these changes won’t affect the poorer classes, who will have to pay higher prices for fruits and veggies in open air markets, due to the government asking for VAT to be paid now on all fruit and vegetable purchases. VAT will be increased one percentage point to 16.5% which will apply to all purchases, from basic commodities to cars and new real estate sales.

How the new rate of VAT , and the requirement for it being paid for stuff bought in the shuk (open air market) is going over with the people manning the stalls there, a visit by a Channel 2 news reporter got it “straight from the horse’s mouth”. One vendor, who has had a stall in the Menahem Yehuda market in Jerusalem for years, summed it up this way: “I am a loyal Likud-nick – always have been. But if these changes go into affect, then all them (the Likud hierarchy) including Ruby Rivlin (the Knesset Speaker) are not welcome here”.

And we’re sure those shuk guys mean business!

OUCH! Bibi does it Again!

In what many people are considering to be a shocker, the Netanyahu government’s Finance Ministry announced their proposed economic plan on Thursday. The Finance Minister, Yuval Steinitz (or is it really Bibi with Steinitz only filling the position as a “stooge” for Netanyahu), presented the new budget, which includes some changes that are reminiscent of Netanyahu’s previous stint as finance minister during Ariel Sharon’s term in 2005. Some of the new budget changes include:

1. A sharp 10% reduction in child allowances with an aim to “equalize” the amount a family receives for each child from National Insurance. This will severely hurt religious families, and has enraged Shas Party members, who agreed to join the Netanyahu government in the first place when he agreed to their demands, including those involving child allowance.

2. Reducing the Defense Ministry’s budget by NS 2.5 million and forcing the IDF to raise its retirement age for career soldiers as well as the amount of pensions received (sorry guys and gals, no more “golden parachutes” at age 45).

3. More restrictions on persons filing for unemployment: persons up to age 35 will only receive benefits for 45 days; 35-45 for 60 days; and over 45 for 90 days. When asked what people will do with so few jobs available, the answer was: Well, there’s gas stations, supermarkets, and “yesh neshek?” (the “do you have a gun?” question security guards ask people going into shopping malls, etc.).

4. Benefits for pensions and disability payments will be “frozen” until the end of 2010 with no cost of living raises, etc.

5. And, something that everyone who has to spend time in a hospital will feel: 50 NIS ($12) daily surcharge for each day spent in hospital (people won’t be so keen to stay there long, especially elderly people on limited incomes). And this sum is in addition to all other “out of pocket” amounts due.

All of this couldn’t have come at a worst time for most people with more than a quarter million Israelis “officially” unemployed and everyone feeling the sharp sting of this current recession (especially Bank Hapoalim’s head Shari Arison, who in addition to all her other problems is now planning to divorce her current husband, Ofer Glazer – yeah, that guy who spent some time in jail for “bothering” a female employee on Arison’s yacht. Shari may have to sell that too, to raise some badly needed cash).

All in all, it doesn’t bode well for us simple folk who are just trying to keep from drowning in very deep financial waters.

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