The government doesn't have enough money to pay for raises for nurses in Israeli hospitals. As a result, the nurses are on strike, and many patients are not receiving the timely care they need to get better, while thousands of operations have been delayed, because there is not enough staff to perform them safely.
But let no one think that this is simply an economic dispute between the nurses' union and the government, say MKs Aryeh Eldad and Michael Ben-Ari: Like everything else in Israel, it's a political issue, and the issue in this case is the government's reluctance to collect taxes from Israeli Arabs.
“According to forecasts by the Treasury and the Bank of Israel, the government is going to have to cut the state budget by NIS 15 billion (about $4 billion) immediately after the elections,” the MKs said in a statement. The cuts will be necessary in order to ensure that Israel retains its stellar international credit rating, and its good standing in the International Monetary Fund, which reportedly has already warned Israel that it must cut public spending, or face the wrath of international investors.
As such, Israel certainly does not have the money it needs to pay nurses what they rightly deserve, the MKs said – but that shortfall, and much more, could easily be made up if the government began to collect taxes from Israeli Arabs. “It is time that the government use its authority to ensure that all Israeli citizens follow the law,” the MKs said.
For reasons of politics or personal safety, tax collectors are usually not sent into Arab towns and cities, and residents there are very lax in paying taxes, the MKs said. Several years ago, the government was forced to design a rescue plan to bail out dozens of municipalities and local authorities – most of which were in the Arab sector, because the local authorities were unable to persuade residents to pay for the needs of the people living in their own towns.
“Only a fair sharing of the tax burden, in the Arab as well as the Jewish sector, will allow for raises and other benefits for nurses and other public sector workers,” said the MKs.