The opposition on Monday evening blasted the government, and particularly Finance Minister Yair Lapid, over the decision to cut government child allowance payments to their lowest levels ever as of Tuesday.
Where just a few years ago families received as much as 400 shekels per child, the payments for children will fall to 140 shekels (less than $40) per child per month, aggravating the situation of poor, mostly hareidi and Arab families, who in the past depended on the payments to avoid falling into poverty.
Opposition leader MK Shelly Yechimovich (Labor) said the allowance cut was a "particularly painful example of a difficult situation where the government is doing the exact opposite of what is required.”
She added, “There are 870 thousand poor children in Israel, a negative peak in Western terms, the child allowances are the lowest in the West, and instead of making the reduction of child poverty a central objective - the well-fed government of Netanyahu, Lapid and Bennett does just the opposite and chooses easy victims: children.”
Yechimovich pointed out that Lapid "uses an inciting misconception that hareidim and Arabs are the only victims of the cut, but in practice 65% of poor families are working families, and an ordinary average family will lose 2,000 shekels a year because of this decision.”
"This is a national and economic error, maliciousness, and a total disconnect from the normal lives of human beings,” she charged.
MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) also denounced the cuts to children’s allowances, saying, “The sharp cuts in child allowances which will begin tomorrow will hit hundreds thousands of families from all sectors of the Israeli public. This is a cruel and evil move, and this government is a cruel one, the likes of which we have not seen for a long time. Its conduct is reminiscent of Sodom and Gomorrah, when under the guise of ideology, children are starved.”
"I'm surprised by the government ministers who I know oppose this cruel policy but are keeping quiet for an unknown reason,” he added.
Shas chairman MK Aryeh Deri called on the Bayit Yehudi party to leave the coalition because of the decision to cut child allowances.
"Finance Minister Yair Lapid will tomorrow carry out his promise to his voters and place tens of thousands of children in poverty, and thousands of families will be sitting at an empty table during the upcoming holidays. This is a sad day for Israel. A government that has no compassion for weak citizens has no right to exist,” said Deri.
"I call on the Bayit Yehudi, and on each member of the coalition who considers himself to be social, to immediately resign from the government, and not be complicit in this crime,” he added.
Lapid, meanwhile, celebrated the new cuts, writing on his Facebook page that cutting the payments “was one of the central campaign promises we made, and now that the cuts are actually being conducted. We of course will help families that need help, and we have set aside millions to ensure that children are fed properly. We have also canceled child payments for the wealthiest families."
Lapid contended that child allowances simply perpetuate the cycle of poverty, as opposed to solving it.
“It has been proven many times that child payments are not a way to pull families out of poverty,” Lapid wrote. “They just preserve and enhance poverty. Only one thing helps pull families out of the cycle of poverty, and that is work. This is what responsibility, both parental and social, is all about,” he added.
Responding to Lapid on his own Facebook page, MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz) wrote that it was a sad sight that “the Finance Minister is boasting that child allowances will be cut as of tomorrow.”
“Lapid’s statement regarding parental responsibility does not eliminate his ministry’s policy that will lead tens of thousands of children into poverty,” said Gilon. “Before cancelling the allowances one needs to create growth levers which ensure a dignified life.”