Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich has announced that the tax imposed by the previous government on soft drinks will be cancelled. Smotrich will be presenting his decision for the approval of other government ministers later on Tuesday.
"As Passover approaches, we are reducing the tax on soft drinks," Smotrich said. "This will lead to substantial savings on food for the general public. In accordance with my instructions, officials within the Finance Ministry have been holding talks with the main industry heads and with the heads of the large chain stores, who have committed to reducing prices within three days," he added.
Smotrich has also been in discussion with Health Ministry officials regarding the establishment of a new inter-ministerial committee that will be tasked with designing a plan to encourage the public to reduce its consumption of sugar and increase purchases of healthy food.
Smotrich's decision to cancel the tax on soft drinks had been delayed numerous times following protests by doctors' organizations and senior Health Ministry officials, who claimed that there were clear health benefits to imposing punitive taxes on the products, especially for children. However, many of those opposed to the tax have noted that merely taxing soft drinks without targeting all unhealthy food choices is unjustified.
At one point, the Finance Minister suggested removing the tax from diet drinks and retaining it on drinks with added sugar. This proposal was opposed by Shas head MK Aryeh Deri and UTJ MK Moshe Gafni, who insisted that the tax be abolished in its entirety.
The tax on soft drinks was imposed by the previous government and was the initiative of then-Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman, who also imposed a punitive tax on disposable goods which was cancelled by Finance Minister Smotrich in the early days of the current government's term. The tax on disposables, while billed as being motivated by concern for the environment, was attacked as disproportionately affecting haredi families, with even left-wing organizations pointing out that if the government genuinely cared about the environment, it would target the main polluters in the country such as the Haifa petrochemicals industries, rather than focus on the relatively negligible impact of plastic tableware.