Netanyahu pledges to ease 'economic distress' in Israel

Netanyahu pledges to ease 'economic distress' in Israel
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged to help Israel's unemployed.
2 min read
Meanwhile, Netanyahu faces corruption charges [Getty]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been facing growing public anger over a deepening economic crisis, has announced a series of measures meant to help Israel's unemployed.

In a nationally televised address Thursday night, Netanyahu pledged to pay stipends to self-employed, unemployed and business owners hurt by the coronavirus pandemic over the coming year.

"The state will do whatever is necessary to ease the economic distress", he said.

"In retrospect, as part of the trial and error, it is possible to say that this last stage was too soon. True, many people pushed us to do so, to open up the economy with abandon.

"By the way, this did not prevent those same people from telling us today 'Why did you open up?' However, we did this not because of them but because we listened to your plight, citizens of Israel, and in order to put as many people as possible back to work.

"I take upon myself the responsibility for this step and I also take upon myself the responsibility to fix it. To this end, we have now closed places of social gathering in closed spaces. We will take other steps if necessary."

He went on to discuss "additional plans".

"This is to say, what is needed now is an additional plan that provides economic certainty for the coming year, the next 12 months, and quickly puts money in bank accounts. This is a safety net for all citizens of Israel.

I would like each and every one of you to know that the state will do whatever is necessary to ease the economic distress."

Israel was widely praised for moving quickly last spring to seal its borders and impose tight restrictions on the public to contain the coronavirus.

But the restrictions sent unemployment shooting up to 25%, and since reopening, the economy has struggled to recover.

Critics have accused Netanyahu of bungling the exit strategy, with virus cases spiking in recent months and the country's economic troubles deepening.

Israel now counts more than 34,000 cases since the start of the outbreak, with nearly 18,000 recovering, and 348 deaths.

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