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Anti-Debt Activist Pleased by Bennett’s Bill

Anti-debt NGO happy with Bennett’s proposal to strengthen the Post Office bank. ‘It’s time for real competition.’
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 2/17/2013, 1:53 PM

Yisrael Liebman
Yisrael Liebman
David Hochberg

Yisrael Liebman, head of the financial counseling non-profit Mekimi, expressed satisfaction Sunday with a proposed law put forth by Naftali Bennett (Bayit Yehudi) expanding the banking services the Post Office Bank (Bank Hadoar) is authorized to provide.

The Post Office bank “is the only bank that does not sell illusions with no coverage,” Liebman told Arutz Sheva. “This is a bank that will not exploit the poor and the middle class, a bank that does not sell false hopes and will not try to commit them to payments they cannot afford.”

“The time has come for Israel to give competition between banks a chance,” he added, “to create a new model of banking.”

The Post Office bank allows any person to open an account and does not charge fees for some services. It is under government oversight.

What Liebman says is crucial is the fact that the bank does not allow customers to spend more money than they have in their account, a practice common in other banks, which term such overspending “overdraft” and charge high interest rates for the negative balance.

“People who hold the [Post Office bank] card are not tempted like those who hold a regular credit card,” Liebman explained. “The word ‘payment plan,’ which means living off what does not exist, is erased, and the person is forced to live only off of what he has.”

“Many Israeli families have come to understand that the Post Office Bank is the ‘babysitter’ that will protect them against this illusion” of living off of credit, he added.

Mekimi helps families learn how to balance their budgets and manage financially. The organization is used to dealing with individuals and families in financial crisis.

Liebman noted one other way that the Post Office Bank is good for those in need. The bank provides a tremendous service to people who have gone bankrupt and whose other bank accounts have been frozen or seized, he explained. “They get permission to use the Post Office bank for day-to-day banking… instead of running to relatives and begging them to let their paychecks be deposited temporarily in their accounts.”

Permission to get their own account through the Post Office “allows someone in that position to breath,” Liebman said. The fact that the Post Office Bank does not allow users to carry a negative balance is what makes that possible, he said.