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      Finance Minister Fights Flu and Lower Taxes from Hospital Bed

      The Finance Minister is in the hospital, where he fights the flu and attempts to cut fuel taxes, which he says are good for economic health.
      By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
      First Publish: 2/9/2011, 1:32 PM / Last Update: 2/9/2011, 2:04 PM

      Finance Ministry

      Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz suffered weakness and dehydration Tuesday night, and he is in the hospital, where he is fighting the flu and attempts to cut high fuel prices. Steinitz says the high prices are good for Israel’s economic health.

      Speaking from Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem, the embattled Finance Minister said he made a mistake by not taking time out to eat and drink Tuesday while trying to prevent cuts in recently-approved higher taxes on gasoline.

      Growing public resentment has threatened Israel with a general strike in the face of higher taxes on water and the sharp increase in the price of bread and other staples, under the influence of renewed world-wide inflation. Steinitz’s high excise taxes on gasoline are good for Israel’s economic health because they help the environment by discouraging private travel and help pay for teachers' salaries while pumping more money into treasury coffers, Steinitz argues.

      The revenue from the gasoline taxes provides Israel with approximately one-third of its whopping 4.7 billion shekel ($1.3 billion) surplus in January. Government revenue from gasoline taxes was 1.46 billion shekels ($400 million) in January.

      One of Steinitz’s sick-bed visitors Wednesday morning was Ofer Eini, head of the national Histadrut labor union. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu faces massive opposition to the price hikes but has not committed himself to lowering taxes.

      Besides Steinitz’s opinion that the increased taxes are good for Israel, he also offered medical advice via Israeli public radio: “I recommend all citizens of Israel not do what I did yesterday: Not eat or drink throughout the entire day. Next time, I will remember to eat at least one meal with a drink," he said.