Poverty statistics inflated, says MK

Jewish Home's Smotrich says while gaps are worrisome, today's poor are much less poor than those of 20 years ago.

Hezki Baruch ,

Bezalel Smotrich
Bezalel Smotrich
Miriam Alster/Flash90

Deputy Knesset Chairman, MK Bezalel Smotrich (Jewish Home), said Wednesday that he is not overwhelmed by the newly released official poverty statistics and thinks they do not reflect reality in Israel.

"There is no doubt," he told Arutz Sheva, "that the poverty report's findings need to be studied in an in-depth fashion and become part of our working plan, as a Knesset and a government, to reduce poverty in Israel."

"Bearing this in mind," the rookie MK added, "we must not lose proportions. There is no doubt that a poor person today is much less poor than he was 20 years ago. Growth in the state of Israel is proceeding apace. So it is true that the rich today are richer than they used to be, but the poor are also richer than they were. The gap remains, and of course, it needs to be addressed, but we must not beat ourselves up over something that we did not do. No one here is dying of hunger or cold in the streets."

While the report says that one in every three children is poor, Smotrich says that the statistics are inflated. "I have five children and I do not think that two of them are poor. I live in a community that includes yeshiva students and their families, who are considered poor, but I do not see them as poverty stricken. The poverty line today does not reflect the reality in which people can live.

"The economy is stable, growth is high, and all of the layers of society enjoy this," he argued. "Sometimes, we hear populist arguments, that say only one sector enjoys this, but all sectors enjoy the fruits of growth."

Regarding the statistics about the haredi and Arab sectors of society, which are harder hit by poverty, he said: "The haredi populace is less poor today than in the past. I think we should also take with a grain of salt the statistics about the Arab populace, and check how much of their income is reported to tax authorities and how much is not. This affects the data in the report."

"At the end of the day, we need to take care of the situation described in the report but take things in proportion, and remember that things are better today than they used to be. Everyone is better off than they used to be," he said.