Minister Bennett
Minister BennettIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Bureaucracy is killing Israeli small business, Minister of Industry and Trade Naftali Bennett (Bayit Yehudi) told a forum of small businesspeople Monday. It takes 212 days on average to get a building permit in Israel, as opposed to just 104 days in Syria. “If I were you, I would consider moving my business to Damascus,” Bennett told the businesspeople jokingly.

Since that option isn't a realistic one, Bennett said that there is no choice but to change the conditions for small business in Israel – and he intends to be the one to do it, he said. “I see myself as the plumber you call when you have a major problem, the one who will stick his hand into parts of your plumbing system that no one dared to before, in order to clear up blockages and stoppages.” In the same way, Bennett said, he was going to open up the “blocks” to establishing and running small businesses.

Continuing with his example of Israel's poor performance on building permits, Bennett said that “according to the World Bank Israel is in 139th place in the amount of time needed to get a building permit, behind Algeria, Togo, the Palestinian Authority, and Syria. I am reluctant to say this, but you are 'suckers' for allowing a situation like this to continue,” he told the businesspeople.

Businesses of late have gotten a bad rap in Israel, Bennett said, but that was unfair: The vast majority of businesses were small to mid-sized, and had nothing to do with the “tycoons” who control the economy's large conglomerates. “I want to differentiate for once and for all between 'tycoons' and 'entrepreneurs.' The former does not want competition, the latter thrives on it.

“We cannot allow ourselves to get confused,” Bennett said. “The use of government ties by tycoons to build uncompetitive markets is terrible, but that has nothing to do with small businesspeople, who actually build value in the Israeli economy. They, more than anyone else, are responsible for creating new jobs, economic growth, and for competition, the most important element in modern economies and an essential for the lowering of prices.”