Naftali Bennett
Naftali BennettIsrael news photo: Flash 90

The cost of living is the most important issue facing the government, Minister of Economy Naftali Bennett declared Sunday.

In a post to his Facebook page, Bennett took on industrialists who harshly criticized him this week for “reckless, unlimited importing.”

Bennett argued that Israel’s current regulations regarding imports are objectively burdensome. “In Europe, if you want to import shoes, you just import shoes. In Israel, you go through the seven levels of hell,” he argued.

Each model of shoe an importer wants to bring in needs to be separately assessed and to get a special, Israeli stamp of approval, he said. “The European standards (!) are not good enough for us,” he said sarcastically.

His office is working to change the demands made of importers “so that we can increase supply while maintaining our standards of safety,” he wrote.

Industrialists harshly criticized Bennett’s changes in a column printed Saturday in Yediot Aharonot. “Bennett’s decisions are populist and demonstrate short-range thinking, and are doing severe damange to Israeli industry,” accused Tzvi Oren, head of the President of the Manufacturers Association.

“Bennett is waving the banner of cost of living in Israel. I agree that it’s an important issue… but it isn’t the only issue,” he continued. “It is much more important to create workplaces, and for that, we need to stop exposing Israel to unlimited imports.”

He contrasted Bennett to Finance Minister Yair Lapid. “I feel that Lapid is making an effort on our behalf, and that we can rely on him,” Oren said.

Bennett rejected the claim that his proposals hurt Israeli industry. “We are pushing forward investment in industry, especially outside of central Israel. In particular, we are bringing innovation to traditional industry,” he argued.

“I expect that the criticism of me will intensify,” he added. “We will continue on our current path, despite the attacks.”