MK Yoni Chetboun reacted to the release of the 2012 Poverty Report on Tuesday with a call to restore child payments, which were cut earlier in the year.
The serious issues revealed in the 2012 report have only grown worse this year due to the budget cuts, he warned.
“Supporters of the ‘free economy’ talk about ending citizens’ reliance on the government, about the need to go out to work and get an education. But you can’t demand people get an education, or talk about equal opportunities, when the basics of life are missing,” he argued.
“The child payments mean bread and milk for hundreds of thousands of families in Israel,” he continued.
Chetboun’s argument contrasted with Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s declaration in August that the child payments cut would be good for families. Lapid praised the cut as a historic move “from a benefits culture to a work culture,” and argued that benefits in fact perpetuate poverty rather than helping.
Chetboun concluded, “I appeal to the Finance Minister and to my colleagues in government to repeal the tragic mistake by restoring child payments.”
The 2012 Poverty Report revealed that over 45% of the roughly 1.7 million Israelis living under the poverty line are children and teenagers.
On Tuesday morning the Knesset’s Rights of the Child Committee met to discuss the impact of the housing crisis on Israeli children. Committee head MK Orly Levy-Abukasis declared that the committee “must cry out on behalf of the weak.”
The government must provide more assistance to families with children who cannot afford housing, she said.
“Today’s needy children are our future soldiers,” she noted. Ronit Katz, who heads the Education Ministry’s work with children at risk, also expressed concern for the future, noting, “Many of the needy children who are evicted from apartments ultimately drop out of school and find refuge in some type of crime.”