Bennett: We'll make every effort to keep the economy open

Naftali Bennett  credit: Emil Salman, Haaretz

Speaking at the "Globes" Israel Business Conference, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the common thread in his government's policies was their view to the future.

At the "Globes" Israel Business Conference this morning, in an address that was pre-recorded because of the growing number of coronavirus cases in Israel, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spoke of the formation of the current government. "Six months ago, in a historic move, we formed a new government in Israel and extracted the State of Israel from an uncontrolled vortex of more and more election cycles. We also rescued Israel from almost complete stagnation in every field. I call it a government of goodwill. People with very different political opinions coming together to advance the State of Israel, and, perhaps surprisingly, this government is greatly succeeding."

"I want you to think about the past six months in your lives," Bennett continued, "about the achievements, the challenges, the hopes, the good experiences and the not so good ones. So much can be packed into such a period of time. For me, the six months that we have gone through together as a government cause me to feel great pride, but no less than that, they cause me to look to the future with expectation. Because if there is a common denominator to all the reforms that we have introduced so far, a strand that connects the projects and the decisions we have made, it's a view to the future, the long-term future and also the short term. But not wallowing in politics, rather what is truly good for the future of the State of Israel."

The prime minister again commented on the passage of the budget and the Economic Arrangements Law, and claimed that together with the reforms, these things "power the economy forward and will save the Israeli public billions, particularly in the cost of living, in imports, kashrut, in reducing regulation, in business licensing, in public transport, in strengthening the Negev, in rolling out optic fiber - it's so slow in Israel, and the list is a long one.

"Friends, we are freeing Israel from the jam. The forward thinking has also set us goals for growth of the high-tech sector in Israel. The story in Israel is that there are two economies: there's high-tech and the rest. So, first of all, the most basic thing is to bring more groups within the State of Israel into high-tech, whether it's Arabs, or haredim, or outlying regions, and we're bringing and returning brains to Israel, and more, and we've allocated no small amount of money to these matters."

Ticking bombs

Bennett said that unless all sectors were integrated into Israeli society, there would be "ticking bombs" here. "The truth is that it is clear to me, as it is to you, that we must build the State of Israel not just on the basis of high-tech, for all the love we have for it. Advancing all sections of the population and integrating them into society is a vital component in creating a strong Israel. If we don't do that, we'll have ticking bombs. So the economic growth that we shall bring is accompanied by a series of very important social reforms.

"After years of neglect, we a moving forward in closing gaps in the Arab sector, and especially in extirpating crime in the Arab street. After all, if shots are being fired in the street, you can't study for matriculation exams. We are dealing with what has been neglected for years. At the same time, among the haredim, we are making a historic move, simply historic, that no-one has had the courage to make - to lower the age of exemption from military service for haredim.

"Yes, with all the injustice, it's preferable for us to be wise. As soon as we free tens of thousands of haredim to enter the economy at age 21, they will be able to go out to work and obtain high-quality training, and perhaps engage in academic studies, and then to live much more productive lives."

"Strengthening ties with allies

On Israel's security challenges, Bennett said that alongside investment in the social and economic spheres, investment was also being made in strengthening ties with the Arab countries. "In all that time, we have not neglected our diplomatic and security challenges. It's important to me that you should know: Israel is now investing billions in unprecedented defense empowerment, at least over several decades. Because if we are not one level above our enemies but ten levels above, in technology, in cyber, in lasers, in missiles, the likelihood of war will diminish.

"At the same time, we are strengthening our ties with our allies. I have just returned from a visit to Mohamed bin Zayed in the United Arab Emirates, I met King Abdullah of Jordan and President Al-Sisi, to make relations warmer, because this regional network is very important. Meanwhile, our international relations are flourishing in a way unprecedented in recent years, with the US, with Britain, with France. All this while we are advancing our readiness in the face of the security threats. We have also raised pay for soldiers and those doing national service. They deserve it."

"Full power on the climate crisis"

On the climate change crisis, Bennett said, "For the first time we are going into the issue of the climate crisis with full power, and we have initiated an unprecedented process that will turn us into a low-carbon economy in very many sectors. It's important to know that the green economy issue, let's call it that, is not just something that we are committed to as the State of Israel, but also a massive opportunity. From here we can export so much in alternative foods, energy, storage, and more."

Only at the end of his remarks did the prime minister comment on the renewed coronavirus outbreak. "To conclude, I still haven’t said a word about the coronavirus crisis. We got through the Delta variant without a single day of lockdown. We didn't close businesses and we didn’t close the education system. Now too, in the coming days we will undergo a very severe wave of the Omicron variant. We have bought several weeks of time and we have prepared, we're ready. I can’t yet say exactly hpw this wave will affect us; I can say that we shall make every effort possible to maintain continuity in the economy."

The Israel Business Conference is in cooperation with Bank Hapoalim, and is sponsored by the OR Movement, The Phoenix Holdings, Profimex, Amdocs, Strauss, Azorim, Hot, and Super-Pharm, with participation from Mekorot, Israel Electric Corporation, the Port of Ashdod, the Tel Aviv Municipality, and the Israel Innovation Authority.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on December 21, 2021.

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2021.

Naftali Bennett  credit: Emil Salman, Haaretz
Naftali Bennett credit: Emil Salman, Haaretz
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