Amid outcry, Knesset committee approves Netanyahu’s request for tax refunds

June 24, 2020 by TPS
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The Knesset’s Finance Committee approved Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request for tax refunds going back a decade and worth hundreds of thousands of shekels, amid an outcry decrying the move as unseemly during a time the country is experiencing a severe financial crisis.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly Cabinet meeting, at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, on Dec. 1, 2019. Photo by Marc Israel Sellem/POOL.

By a vote of eight to five, with one abstention, the Finance Committee approved on Tuesday a request by Netanyahu for nine years of tax refunds on expenses at his private home in Caesarea that were paid by the state.

The tax refunds were formally requested by Prime Minister’s Office Acting Director-General Ronen Peretz from the Finance Committee to repay the money for services and benefits, excluding paychecks and pension, in the time between January 1, 2009, and December 31, 2017.

In 2018, it was legislated that the prime minster’s use of his official vehicle would not be taxed and that the state would bear the costs of his private residence beside the official residence in Jerusalem.

However, following the passage of the law, the Tax Authority retroactively issued a tax demand relating to benefits received by Netanyahu between 2013 and 2017.

During the heated debate, Committee Chairman Member of Knesset (MK) Moshe Gafni said that he was “very angry with the Tax Authority, which is supposed to provide explicit answers and is not doing that.”

Member of Knesset Miki Zohar, of Netanyahu’s Likud party, argued that the taxes would have left Netanyahu “financially crippled,” and said the Prime Minister is being “persecuted by legal advisors.”

Local media and social activities slammed the move, saying it was a highly insensitive discussion to hold at a time when the country was experiencing a severe financial crisis generated by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Close to a million Israelis are still without jobs and many businesses have collapsed while the state is preparing for another wave of infections and there is no apparent end to the crisis in sight.


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