Finance Minister Yair Lapid attempted on Friday to assure angry Israelis that he was following through on his election campaign promises and was working to help the middle class.
Lapid’s announced budget cuts have upset Israelis, who have threatened to revive the social protests that took place during the summer of 2011. The budget cuts will see child payments reduced and VAT added to the cost of fruits and vegetables, among other things.
During the elections Lapid campaigned on a platform of easing the cost of living for the Israeli middle class and boosting social mobility.
The Finance Minister gave interviews to both Channel 2 and Channel 10, attempting to ease the criticism that has been directed at him over the cuts.
"There is one thing the Israeli middle class cannot afford, and that is to have the Israeli economy collapse," he warned in the Channel 2 interview, "because then it really will not have an overdraft and will not have a mortgage, because it will not have an apartment."
"I could have, politically, done nothing,” added Lapid. “I could’ve said, 'Guys, the deficit was made before I took office, I also want to create a deficit. I chose to make the responsible choice because it's my job. I want to emphasize that it will be quick. The Israeli economy will be lifted from the deep mud which it is in right now. It does not take a lot of time and this is what needs to be done."
Asked by the interviewers on Channel 10 if the “new politics” which he had promised during the election campaign means not keeping promises, Lapid replied that he believes “new politics” also means to do the right thing even if it is not popular.
"In the long run it will even turn out to be the right move politically,” he said. “I do not think it was a mistake to go to the Finance Ministry. I ran for the Knesset asking ‘Where's the money?’, I ran on the socio-economic issues. Being Finance Minister is about leadership, it's not a professional position."
"In another six months people will think differently," predicted Lapid. "We know that if we stop the irresponsible wasting of money, we will have a good economy. It’s just that people behaved in an irresponsible manner here. The Prime Minister is backing all these measures because he is a guy who understands economics."
He added, "I made the choice to not look good and instead to do the right thing. I do not expect anyone to love what is happening. I too do not like what is happening. These cuts are falling on everyone, but what other option do we have?”
Referring to the harsh criticism directed at him by Israelis in recent days, Lapid told Channel 2, "I look at my Facebook page every day and people there are saying bad things about me. People are angry and rightly so. I will not go with them into the question of why this is directed at me. They should be angry at someone, I'm currently sitting in this position - it comes with the job.”
He emphasized that he did not lie to his voters. “I promised and I will keep my promises. I have been Finance Minister for only a month and a half. I'll take the economy out of this mess. It will happen a lot faster than people think. I could have chosen not to hurt my voters, but I decided that they would not be immune, because that is responsible behavior.”
(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)