For Israel's Far-right Finance Minister, Annexation Trumps the … – Haaretz

Bezalel Smotrich is such a kind, sensitive man. This week, he removed the tax on sugary beverages in order to help his constituency ahead of Passover, like some kind of poisoned afikomen. Smotrich, it seems, is ensuring that Israel reaches first place in the global ranking for deaths from diabetes. It’s only in second place right now.
Smotirch doesn’t believe in science, one saying, “The theory of evolution is passe – it’s ridiculous to claim we came from monkeys.” So naturally, he isn’t impressed by doctors’ warnings that the large amounts of sugar found in soft drinks are a particular danger to health. And because he likes the ultra-Orthodox and the religious Zionists, he wants to help them buy even more of these beverages. He’s completely indifferent to the fact that diabetes is far more prevalent among them than in the general population, and can lead to obesity, amputation, blindness, high blood pressure and cancer. It’s the most cynical, most political and cruelest type of action that a finance minister could possibly take.
Outside of sugary drinks, Smotrich is mainly interested in the occupied territories. He works morning to night in his efforts to pass the government’s plan to neuter the judiciary and make sure the Supreme Court can’t intervene in the abuse of Palestinians, land seizures, expulsions, and, when the time comes, annexation.
A normal finance minister would be interested in other matters – the budget, reforms, economic growth, unemployment, investments and the cost of living. But these don’t interest Smotrich. From his point of view, it doesn’t matter if Israel slides into poverty, so long as the West Bank is annexed.
When the bank CEOs told him that there had been a sharp rise in money being sent overseas since the legislation began to be advanced, his answer was “the [judicial] reform will be fantastic for the economy, the best thing that could happen.” That’s the response of someone disconnected from reality and thinks of nothing but the Messiah. That disconnect enables him to ignore the slowdown in the business sector, the decline in imports of raw materials, the slowdown in investment, capital flight, the shekel’s depreciation and the drop in share prices.
All legends aside, Smotrich isn’t smart. He’s also not sophisticated. He has no economic agenda and is constantly changing his mind. He has the habit of adopting the opinion of the last person to enter the room. His Kahanist remarks about Hawara and Palestinian peoplehood caused the U.S. government to declare him persona non grata, something that’s causing actual damage to the Israeli economy.
He’s also a man who doesn’t honor the truth. Two weeks ago, he issued an urgent announcement to the media in which he summed up a meeting he had had with Finance Ministry officials about the economic impact of the judicial overhaul. He wrote the statement himself, and it was filled with lies.
He entirely ignored the worst-case scenarios that were presented to him and wrote that the discussion dealt with “the risks and opportunities arising from the reform.” False. No one among the senior Finance Ministry staff spoke about opportunities. They only spoke about serious risks, like a credit rating downgrade, higher interest rates, slower economic growth, financial losses, plunging tax revenue and the crumbling of the high-tech sector.
But Smotrich, instead of acknowledging the warnings and acting on them, went into a rage and claimed that the studies were “tendentious,” adding that for Finance Ministry economists, “the end justifies the means.” Another lie. Senior ministry officials are professionals who serve governments of every political stripe and whose sole interest is the good of the economy, which is not something you can say about Smotrich.
He’s also arrogant, walking around in the Finance Ministry and exclaiming that his recent speech in miserable, broken English at the Israel Bonds conference in Washington was excellent and received acclaim. It was only the hostile media that had made him look ridiculous. Smotrich simply doesn’t live in reality.


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