Israeli government votes 10% cut to ministers’ salaries as gesture during crisis

Cabinet approves draft plan to reduce salaries of ministers, Knesset members and senior public officials, including judges.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The government unanimously accepted a proposal by Finance Minister Yisrael Katz to cut the salaries of senior public officials by 10 percent, a government statement said Tuesday.

The move came as the second national lockdown to slow the coronavirus pandemic was expected to worsen the economic crisis already wracking the country. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said additional funds will be made available for hard-hit sectors.

“We declared additional grants to retain workers, expand state-guaranteed loans, advance grant payments and allocate grants for fixed expenditures also to businesses that were hurt by 25 percent and up – we expanded eligibility,” Netanyahu said.

In a bid to mollify public anger over the government’s handling of the crisis, Netanyahu said the salary cut was part of the national effort.

“We must all bear the burden and we as ministers must also stand together in one row behind the steps that we will take in the face of the reality that will be difficult,” Netanyahu said.

However, the salary cut is still a proposal on paper, and Katz has to formulate it into policy that can be presented for a vote. The pay cut is for ministers, Knesset members, and all high-salaried senior public officials, including judges and those whose salaries exceed that of MKs.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid slammed the salary cut, saying it was supposed to be twice the size.

“There was talk all day about cutting 20 percent of the salaries of ministers and MKs,” Lapid tweeted, saying Knesset members were asked about setting a personal example due to the national emergency.

“We welcomed, supported, and then the government convened and authorized the Minister of Finance to talk to the relevant authorities about a 10 percent cut. Hello? What happened?” Lapid said.

With national income from taxes greatly reduced during the crisis, government sources claimed that a real reduction in costs will not come from a cutting cabinet ministers’ salaries, but from a reduction in the number of inflated ministries, Kan Radio reported.

Netanyahu’s national unity government formed in May has 33 cabinet ministers, compared to only 21 in his previous government. In effect, one in every four members of the 120-seat Knesset is a cabinet member with a budget for an office, staff and ministerial activities, a move that received much criticism when the government took office.