Finance Minister Yair Lapid skipped a vote in the Knesset on the rise in the value added tax (VAT) in favor of a vacation in France on Wednesday.
The move was met with anger by the opposition, since Lapid was able to find the time just several hours earlier to hold a news conference following the passing of the recommendations of the Perry Committee on drafting hareidim in to the army. The members of the opposition accused Lapid of creating a spin over the debate on the draft law in order to hide the raising of the VAT from the public.
Opposition leader MK Shelly Yechimovich (Labor) slammed Lapid in a speech over the Knesset plenum, saying, “Lapid holds a press conference to tell us that in four years 70% of the hareidim will enlist. There is a limit to everything, this is an insult to intelligence.”
“I do not know why the Finance Minister is not here. He took off and left you to do the dirty work for him,” she said, addressing the members of the coalition who were present at the vote. “Do not do the dirty work for him. No one is happy with this vote. Many of you know that this is a serious mistake.”
MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) also addressed Lapid’s trip and said, “Here they raise the VAT, and Lapid travels abroad. He needs to stand here and explain why the VAT is increasing.”
The Finance Minister's Office explained in response that Lapid had traveled to Paris for a conference of OECD finance ministers, a trip which he had postponed because of the coalition crisis over the draft law. Now that this crisis has been solved he has decided to go on the trip, where he will meet with his French counterpart.
Israeli media reported that after the conference, Lapid and his wife will spend the weekend in a private vacation in Paris, for which Lapid has paid out of his own pocket.
Meanwhile, the vote on raising the VAT to 18% passed by a majority of 45 to 18. One MK – Moshe Feiglin – abstained.
Before the vote, Yechimovich sent a message to MKs urging them to vote against the VAT increase.
The VAT hike “is a coward’s tax – don’t approve it, vote against it,” Yechimovich said.
She appealed to members of the coalition to ignore orders on how to vote. “I’m calling to Members of Knesset from Yesh Atid, Hatnua, Likud, Bayit Yehudi and Yisrael Beytenu. All the members of the coalition and the government – use your conscience, your logic, your backbone, your obligation to your voters, and vote today against Lapid’s VAT hike.”