The government has approved emergency fiscal measures to compensate for the fresh round of restrictions on businesses, but for many Israelis, the aid offered by the government is simply not enough.
Although the government approved several significant measures on Thursday, including the extension of unemployment benefits to furloughed workers and fiscal aid to businesses, the measures have yet to be approved in Knesset (The Israeli parliament). Even when it is approved, the set of measures is far smaller than what business and worker’s groups have been calling for, leaving many Israelis feeling that the government has abandoned them in a time of crisis.
On top of the insecurity felt by many Israelis, there have been significant problems with the last round of aid, which have yet to be resolved.
“The compensation payments I was supposed to get were far lower than I had expected,” said Lior Benbaji, the owner of a Tel Aviv wedding venue in an interview with Davar. “I was supposed to get 25 thousand shekels for May-June, which is nothing near what I would have made if I could have done business. On top of that, I ended up getting only 6,000 shekels.”
Benbaji is one of a large number of Israeli business owners who have been pressing the government to address the mistakes made in the issuing of compensation during the last round of fiscal stimulus. Businesses have warned that unless the issues are addressed quickly, in addition to a wide, new set of measures, many of them may not survive the second round of restrictions.
The lack of sufficient financial aid has also been fueling recent protests, which have been held on a weekly basis outside Prime Minister Netanyahu’s home, on Balfour Street, for several months. Last week, about 3,000 protesters attended the weekly demonstration in Jerusalem. Emergency financial aid in face of the lockdown has become a growing concern for demonstrators in recent weeks.
“We come every week,” said Rina, a protester who attended last week’s protest together with her mother, Leah. “People are been hurt terribly by this lockdown, particularly on the financial side. It’s the main reason for me to keep coming.”
Business owners have also been taking part in the protests demanding the government compensate fully for the losses incurred due to the new restrictions. Roi Cohen, head of the Small Business Organization spoke at the last protest, saying that “The government hasn’t said a word about compensating small businesses. Why haven’t they learned the lessons from the last lockdown?”
Ilan Dayan, a fashion business owner from Rishon Le’Tzion, spoke as well, saying that “This government is totally divorced from reality. They don’t understand what most of us are going through. They had six months to organize a response to another round of restrictions, but they’ve done nothing.”
The lockdown comes in face of an unprecedented downturn for the Israeli economy. The Israeli Employment Service has warned that the number of job seekers has been rapidly rising in recent months, with jobs seeker numbering 2.5 times more than vacancies in August.
Another indicator of economic weakness has been the recent rise in permanent unemployment. According to the IES, the share of furloughed workers out of the total number of unemployed has fallen from 63.4 percent to 59.6 percent, which has corresponded with a rise in permanent unemployment. Expert are worried that the rise in permanent unemployment may be a sign that Israel’s recovery will be long draw out and weak, leaving many Israelis unemployed for months to come.