The man who declared war on the cost of living in Israel
The chairman of the economics committee recounts the moment when he realized that his parents were role models, the brother who lost his mind, the father who died on the same date, in the same bed and the same hospital, his uncompromising struggle with the cost of living - and even explains when he feels due to be prime minister
Wednesday, January 19, 2022, 18:16 Updated: Thursday, January 20, 2022, 11:34
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: MK Michael Bitton, Chairman of the Economics Committee, "Blue and White".
Who I am
: The son of Masuda and Eliyahu, a Zionist, Moroccan, traditional, Yeruhami Jew. A social person who cares about people who are having a hard time, a mediocre father with a woman larger than life.
: My father's side from a village in the Atlas Mountains, where he lived a life of sharing with the locals. Grandpa was a smart student who also knew how to support the family in agriculture. Grandma died and was buried in Morocco, and Grandpa immigrated with the family in 1963, following one of the sons who came to Mevaseret Zion in Jerusalem. Mother is a descendant of the Vaknin family, which was known as a shrewd merchant family. Grandpa Mordechai's children, my uncles, moved to Marrakesh and Casablanca and opened branches. Mom laughs that Dad came from a house of sages and with her they knew how to make money.
The parents knew Morocco.
Mom was meant for someone else, and after Dad sanctified her with laughter, the rabbi said there was no laughter and they were married and her sister married the guy in her place.
When they immigrated to Israel in the early 1960s with five children, they wanted to go to Jerusalem and found themselves in a transit camp in Yeruham and from there moved to an apartment with two bedrooms and a living room and a kitchenette.
In 1980, Amidar let them "upgrade" them to three rooms.
Dad set up a synagogue, was absorbed into the Dimona fibers, later enlisted in the KMG and worked until ten at night for overtime.
Mother cleaned the school and the homes of Mekorot workers.
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"In 1980, Amidar" upgraded "Mom and Dad to a 3-room apartment" (Photo: Reuven Castro)
: There was a time when I thought my parents did not belong to my Sabra identity and over time I realized that they were noble people and role models. There was not much money in the house, but there were values and lots of love. We lived in the small house with nine children, parents and a grandfather. I slept with my parents until I was 6, my older brother got his own room and agreed to sleep with Grandpa, and the other siblings slept on mattresses in the living room head to tail.
Basically I succeeded without effort and from the fifth grade I was in patrol circles and in Bnei Akiva. I studied in high school, but the distance was difficult for me. I sat at home for half a year because the high school in Dimona was not challenging enough and then my brother was killed. I asked for a second chance at the yeshiva and one of the instructors helped me last until the 11th. I started studying at the Twelfth and then I decided to enlist in the Golani early. The parents signed twice - both consent to combat service as a bereaved family and for early enlistment.
My late father
: my big brother. He went to study at a military boarding school at age 14, was drafted into the Armed Forces, had a car accident, was injured, and collapsed at my sister's home a week later. I was at a Bnei Akiva summer camp, and they jumped me home. It was a big break and made the parents come together and shut themselves off. Dad passed away when I was 25, on the date my brother passed away, and by a chilling coincidence - in the same hospital room and bed.
: My wife, the woman of my life, a woman of clusters who instructs groups of leaders in "Orot" and guides teachers in non-religious schools on Judaism and Jewish identity in the broadest sense. She lectures in preparatory schools and leads a choir. The guide from Bnei Akiva, who told me about my brother's breakdown, said that I should be in touch with a girl from Jerusalem and we started corresponding. At the age of 19 she came to Yeruham as part of a river nucleus and we got married at the age of 22. I can not tell my wife that I love her every day, so I write her songs, one of which I composed. We have five children and we live in Yeruham.
MK Bitton. The brother and father died on the same date, in the same hospital, in the same room and on the exact same bed (Photo: Reuven Castro)
: I worked in social entrepreneurship, education for the environment and nature, and youth at risk in Yeruham for years and when I felt I had enough professional and social experience I decided to run for mayor in 2010 and was elected as Mitzna's successor, who chaired the committee.
I informed the public that I would be two terms and retire and so it was.
After I put Yeruham on the king's road and retired, I formed the party with Adina Bar Shalom and Gideon Sheffer, out of a belief in the common good, managing the disputes and finding areas of agreement.
When Benny Gantz founded the party, I realized that the order of the hour was a union and I joined it.
After we were elected to the Knesset, I was appointed Minister of Social Affairs in the Ministry of Defense and took on the issue of protection and treatment of IDF disabled and security components in localities. I was also Minister of Strategic Affairs and Minister of Social Equality.
: In the current Knesset, I wanted to be the Minister of Education, Welfare, Interior or Justice, and I would take them tomorrow.
Since it was not available to us, I was offered to chair the Economics Committee. I have no interest in being a third-tier minister.
In the end, and this is wisdom in retrospect, I did not know how much influence it could have. Housing, Transportation Infrastructure, Agriculture, Negev Galilee, Communications, when all their legislation and regulations require our approval.
The teeth of the Economics Committee are our interaction with the government. The immediacy that rises in the economy, with an emphasis on the cost of living and harm to the weak. We need to know how to use it wisely. This is how we managed to reduce the reduction in credit facilities in banks.
"I have no interest in being a third-rate minister" (Photo: Reuven Castro)
: It is not my job to distribute grades to ministers. If I were in the Ministry of Economy, I would put price increases at the top of my list of priorities. The Minister of Economy can apply pressure and do things, and harness the Ministry of Finance and Agriculture. The citizens are desperate and their voices are not heard. I'm going to handle this with all my might and I do not think it's a losing battle.
Cost of living
: Recently, they conducted an extensive survey in Israel and asked the samples what was most important to them. In first place was personal security and in second place the cost of living. And I tell you, the thing that hurts the citizens the most is the cost of living. I called on the Prime Minister and I call on him again, to set up an inter-ministerial team of ministers to deal with the cost of living headed by him.
Just as there is a security cabinet, there should be a cabinet for the cost of living with the participation of all the ministries that pertain to the daily existence of the citizens and they should be bold. Where we perceive increases that are manipulative, such as coordinating prices between food chains, they need to be addressed on a point-by-point basis.
"The thing that hurts citizens the most is the cost of living" (Photo: Reuven Castro)
: I intend to do research within the committee on the 20 entities in the economy that hold production and imports, we will reveal what their profits are, most of which are not reported to the public because the companies are not traded on the stock exchange.
There are importers and manufacturers at all: we will never earn less than we earned before.
We will summon their managements for a discussion with us and demand answers to the question, whether it is possible to settle for a modest profit and lower prices, and not just raise them.
We alone will not be able to win this war, but this issue cannot be allowed to perish.
: The citizen should boycott monopolies. Food chains made record profits last year and do not have to raise prices. In the State of Israel there are several bodies that need to be fought. There is a competition authority that needs to be more aggressive, and a new director has been appointed from the organization, Michal Cohen, who did not enter through a revolving door from a conflict of interest organization, and I hope it will be determined and biting, announcing new monopolies and imposing restrictions and fines of up to one hundred million shekels. On competition laws.
: All authorities should be bitten against cartels, monopolies and duopoly that oppress the public. When hundreds of millions in fines are imposed in one year, it will be a year of upheaval. They will not do any more manipulations on the consumer because it will not pay off for them. The wisdom is not to put one person in jail. If they do not harm five organizations together, we will not see them calm down.
Alongside the Competition Authority there is also the Consumer Council and the Consumer Protection Authority.
Together with the Consumer Council, we filed a class action lawsuit against the banks, and it was accepted.
The bodies in the economy need to know that our eyes are on their backs and these two authorities must work and not procrastinate, along with the Supervisor of Banks and the Securities Authority.
Import reform is an important component in reducing the cost of living, and it joins the open banking reform we have passed.
Since the Standards Institute is supposed to be harmed by it, we demanded that the employees be transferred to supervisory positions for its implementation in the field.
"When several hundred million fines are imposed in one year, it will be a year of upheaval. They will no longer manipulate the consumer because it will not pay off for them" (Photo: Reuven Castro)
: It is a mistake of the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Agriculture to come up with unilateral acts without dialogue with the other side. It hurts farmers and the coalition because the issue is sensitive. I have dealt with the reform in the laying industry and it will continue to be planned and managed at the discretion of the heads of the industry a year ahead and then we will continue. The fruit and vegetable reform will not work in committee without dialogue between the parties, as we have done in open banking, exports and imports.
Unilateralism can come with lowering tariffs on imports, but it is not a complete step and it will have consequences in politics as well. I intend to be a leader of agreements. Yes, there is a need to reform, to make sure that agriculture is technological, to make better use of the land, to be ecological, and to encourage young farmers to enter the industry, but it cannot be done with an ax.
Business owners compensation
: The demand for compensation of those who have been injured in a measurable manner is justified.
The damage can be seen in the income tax and VAT reports of aviation, inbound tourism, guides, leisure businesses, and they need to get help and assistance because the government will be tested on that.
We will have a joint discussion of the Labor and Economy Committee and we will demand satisfactory answers.
"We will plant in the Negev and the Galilee. No one will dictate to us what to do and how to use the land reserves" (Photo: Reuven Castro)
Planting in the Negev
: As a son of the Negev, I can say that we are a Jewish, Zionist, and democratic state, and we will plant in the Negev and the Galilee. No one will dictate to us what to do and how to use the land reserves.
: My wife was infected from our daughter and I was infected by her, so it turned out that both of us, with the three daughters and the groom were in isolation together. I got infected after three vaccinations so I had a hard day and a half and everything was fine. Corona has consequences of fatigue and weakness and should be given time for recovery.
: Riding a mountain bike in the desert and accumulating hours per person there. Loves to cook, has to read a lot for work, and a good book or song makes me feel good.
Looking to the future
: I would love to be a significant minister in the government and if I am an excellent minister, after a few years I will also be prime minister. God has blessed me to be elected to the Knesset four times, to be a minister in three ministries and to head the influential committee in the Knesset and all this within two years.
The "Executive Summary" section with the Chairman of the Economics Committee, MK Michael Bitton, is also published in Maariv's "Business" magazine, Friday, 21.1
Cost of living