Association for Small Businesses Chairwoman Dikla Abutbol fumed over the Israeli government's management of Israel's business sector during the coronavirus outbreak, claiming that the neglect will be irreversible.
"The business year 2020 has ended and Israel was defined as a negative winner when it came to the aid provided to the business sector," Abutbol told Arutz Sheva. "The loan funds were low, the amount of guarantees were very low in the loans that we gave, the grants were almost zero - at the end of the day, we're talking about over 70,000 businesses which are going to close due to the coronavirus. That's a rise of over 50% in comparison to any other year and compared to the world, and it's twice as much as any other country is reporting. From our perspective, Israel has failed."
"This is a sector which paid National Insurance Institute premiums according to the law, and their money was just stolen. At a time when the State should have told every business owner that his basic rights are being preserved, and protected him and returned to him a small portion of what he paid his entire life - it failed. It looked hungry people in the eye and said, 'We don't see you, you're not part of us.'
"Strong businesses reached the farthest they could and used all their reserves and they're worried about a second wave, and smaller businesses which are always on the edge received a harsh blow and we saw intolerable arrogance on the part of the decision makers. Every time, they try to cut the business sector and hurt it, and it tries to pick up its head and the moment it manages to do that they hurt it again.
"The business sector pays National Insurance Institute premiums more than any other citizen of the State of Israel. Why when it suffers a hard time is it impossible to give it the minimum unemployment payment so that people don't have to starve? Where is the money? How do you look these people in the eye and tell them, 'You we're not going to help'? What excuse is there for that? It's a failure and an embarrassment."
Unemployment payments are paid through the National Insurance Institute. Those who were laid off - and uniquely to the outbreak, those placed on unpaid leave - were provided with unemployment payments throughout the lockdown. However, business owners were not eligible for unemployment, and the grants for small businesses were not immediately approved and included criteria that excluded many small business owners.
Abutbol also said that since Finance Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) took office, she has new hope. "We have a new Finance Minister, and something is happening that we hope will create a healthy trend, and what's happening is that there is communication. It looks more positive and there's better discourse. We hope that this will characterize the coming period, and that there will be good news."
Otherwise, she said, "business owners may vote with their feet, and polls show that the entrepreneurs' party would receive over five Knesset seats. I assume that the business sector won't give up this time, until we start seeing a change."