MK Michal Waldiger, Deputy Minister of Finance (Photo: Reuven Castro)
My second conversation with the Deputy Minister of Finance, Michal Waldiger, was repeatedly postponed.
At first she fell for the large right-wing demonstration in front of the Knesset, and as a senior member of the religious Zionist list, she felt obliged to meet the demonstrators in person.
From there she was taken to the plenum for the discussion of the budget, which ended only early in the morning.
So it turned out that it wasn't until late afternoon the next day, after she had stolen a few hours of sleep, that we could finally meet and talk about the economy.
Waldiger, 54, a lawyer by profession, is also a mother of five who lives in Givat Shmuel, but for the past two weeks has been most of the time in a hotel in Jerusalem.
In the past she ran a private practice and moved to full public practice.
She was a member of the Givat Shmuel Council, founded an organization for victims of the dual morbidity of the mentally challenged and addicted, and managed the "Bat Ami for National Service" association until she ran for the Knesset for the first time as part of "Religious Zionism".
For the past three months, she has been serving as the deputy of Bezalel Smotrich, the chairman of her party, in the Ministry of Finance.
"There can be one or another momentary damage to the economy and it is a consequence of the incitement on the part of the opposition leaders" (Photo: Reuven Castro)
"I am the deputy minister of finance," she says in a fast and jumpy speaking rate, and explains that she has attention deficit disorder.
"I came to this position after several conversations with the minister and I believe in the social side, health, welfare and education. The Ministry of Finance is not concrete, it touches many ministries and we have outstanding professionals who work from heart to heart."
Are you worried about Israel's economic situation?
Treasury economists gave a very difficult forecast.
"There was some kind of leak from the yeshiva."
There were two documents.
One of the budget department and one of the chief economist.
You must have read them.
"I respect the economists and experts, but when you make a change in policy it can affect the economy and when there is such a big public noise, there will be effects. The change we want to pass is right and good and will move the economy of the State of Israel forward. Everything is under control."
How will the legal reform improve the Israeli economy?
"The situation now is not democratic. The claim of the economists that there will be a dictatorship here and there will be a mess. Look how Fitch did not lower the rating and treated the situation in which the country will not be democratic in a very small way."
But the Moody's credit rating agency issued a sharp and unusual warning against the government's moves.
It cannot be undone.
"Did I cancel something? There could be one or another momentary damage to the economy and it is a consequence of the incitement by the opposition leaders."
Let's return to the economic benefit of the reform.
"The legal reform will strengthen our democracy. Now a large part of the people believe that the High Court does not represent them.
There are people sitting there who don't think like them and they don't have time to deal with the Court of Appeals.
As soon as the public's trust in the court goes down, this hurts Israel's economy."
"In order to enforce a contract, when there is no stability and there are no very clear precedents for what a contract is, over 900 days pass to approve a contract in court. When there is a contract, and it must be interpreted according to the law and not according to an agenda, because the court interferes with the freedom of contracts , each one comes in a successful method, and tries to reach the judge of his agenda.
If things are not clear, chaos and a mess will be created and we will not be able to develop economically"
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"Here, we managed to pass the budget" (Photo: Reuven Castro)
Were you part of the budget discussions?
"Both at the macro level and at the micro level. We want to give everyone everything, but we must keep to the fiscal rules, without going beyond the framework."
The Minister of National Security, Itamar Ben Gvir, announced that if he does not receive the nine billion promised to the police, he will not support the budget.
"Here, we managed to pass the budget."
Only on first reading.
This is the warm-up.
The difficult stage is in the second and third reading.
"Ben Gvir voted in favor. Passing laws in the Knesset is not easy. I tried to pass several laws in preliminary reading and it did not pass. We sat in discussions for 12 hours just on the budget laws."
It is impossible to compare a regular law with a budget.
The ministers understand, certainly at such a preliminary stage, that if the budget does not pass, the government falls.
"The ministers all voted in favor, because they understood that it is impossible to give everything to everyone. They understand that we have to give up. The whole world is in a recession, there is the corona, which we have not long since come out of, and the war in Ukraine, which affects inflation and interest rates, the supply of gas and fuel."
Do you think the governor should raise the interest rate?
"We believe in the governor's independence. There can be arguments in the room, but we accepted what he said."
"We talked to the banks. We will have two difficult years" (Photo: Reuven Castro)
Cost of living
One of the most burning social issues is the cost of living.
It seems that the government has forgotten that it promised to take care of him.
"We have greatly simplified everything related to imports. In the Arrangements Law, we have simplified the standard for food and perfumes, we want it to be open for imports and exports."
This is a reform of the previous government, not yours.
"Everyone does what they can. We added another floor to what they did, they had to be precise. They started a move and we expanded it."
People are groaning under the burden of mortgages, how do you make it easier for them?
"We talked to the banks. We will have two difficult years, because people took out a mortgage when the interest rate was low and now it is rising. A delta was created that they did not expect. I believe that eventually the interest rate will go down. The banks promised to help the public who were burdened by the interest rate through a convenient spread of payments." .
Why did the Treasury object to introducing the importers' reform into the Settlements Law, which was supposed to limit their power,
"We are definitely fighting monopolies, this is part of our agenda. We believe in a free market."
So why did you remove this reform from the Settlements Law?
"I can't say which reform we are talking about. We are completely there in the opening of the market for imports, to allow parallel imports. Everything that is not included in the Settlements Law will be entered in a different way. In the Settlements Law there is an option to pass everything as one law to save precious time, but it is possible to pass legislative amendments and enact additional laws. The role of the Minister of Finance and mine is not only to reduce the cost of living, but to grow the economy with the help of growth levers such as infrastructure, the light rail, the metro, to reduce gaps between the periphery and the center. "My role is welfare
I work very hard on the 'one stop shop'.
A person who needs to get a disability, has to go through so many obstacles and bureaucracy in order to be recognized, the same on the business side as well.
How much is the budget for the "one stop shop" that you head?
"It's not a matter of amount."
There are work teams working on this, 'the person in the center', this is my project and I need it to happen.
It also includes the privacy protection law, legislative amendments.
And of course I also take care of mental health, which is close to my heart.
The Ministry of Health received another two billion shekels."
How much of it will be directed to mental health?
"I won't go into the amounts with you.
There is no minister in the Ministry of Health, but only Minister Minister. We are holding talks with them."
How much do you think should be budgeted for mental health in Israel?
"It is necessary to reduce appointments in psychotherapy treatment, the reduction will come from the construction of balancing houses, which will provide more alternatives for treatment, the opening of crisis intervention centers in addition to the 11 centers that are about to be opened, the addition of rehabilitation communities and the release of the chronically hospitalized into the community."
Anyway, give me a number.
"I'll tell you why I don't give a number. I want to form a team to write a master plan."
How much is the mental health field budgeted today?
"Three and a half billion shekels, actually five billion, if you also take into account the additions from the health funds, research funds, deductibles and the National Insurance. Besides, 35% - 40% of the wealth fund is supposed to go to social programs. 40 million shekels for education and youth movements and 35 million for mental health."
These are very small amounts.
"You can do a lot with them."
I went through your Facebook and Twitter feed.
Lots of politics, right-wing ideology, support for reform, few social statements and almost zero economic references.
"Even though I studied in a real-physics major and I really liked the field of taxation as a lawyer. My heart went in the direction of society, so naturally I am there. Politics is not a dirty word. I come to the Knesset and see 120 members who have come to work and give their all, I see ideology and desire ".
"A lot of families are falling apart, blaming each other for the content. It's a family event" (Photo: Reuven Castro)
desire and faith
And there is no disputing Waldiger's willpower.
After the family crisis she went through, she managed to get up and turn the difficulty into a social action.
"All my life I have been lucky. I have an amazing twin sister, an older sister, wonderful parents. I was the queen of the class, everything came easily to me. I met my husband at a young age, we got married, when I was 21
I had a child. When addiction and mental illness came to a relative, I was very ashamed, I hid. It was 20 years ago. In the last ten years, from a place of growth, I don't hide anymore. I can't say who he is, at his request, he's not ready. It's not a shame, but I won't hurt his will.
"A relative of mine has addiction and schizophrenia, which is like cancer, in which there are hundreds of types, but there is a range of severity. It is one of the most severe mental illnesses and he is at the edge of it. There are many moments when he is like you and me, so it is impossible to talk about his head. When his illness was diagnosed I fell into a huge pit, freediving, and God put stones in your pockets.
The first reason is the terrible stigma, stain, fear that they won't mate with your children, it's a demon, a demon.
He was hospitalized 37 times.
Every Friday we walk to Gaha and do Kablat Shabbos there.
"When it all started I was in denial and he was in denial, then it started to gain momentum. There are thefts at home. You no longer know that you spent money, or maybe you're imagining it, you lose confidence in yourself, there are arguments with my dear man, many families fall apart, blame Each other in the content. It's a family event."
On MK Ofer Kasif of Hadash: "It's hard for me to hear what he says about IDF soldiers and the occupation, but I see the person in him, the father to the children" (Photo: Reuven Castro)
"At some point, in the middle of falling down, when I told him, listen, you can live a great life with this, don't let it control you, I realized that it was controlling me, that he couldn't really lean on me. Then I started thinking about how I was running my life. I started
climbing Above, and at the zero line I said to myself, I'm starting to help families with dual morbidity, that's how 'Amonat'ch' was established, an organization of families with dual morbidity, to give the peer group to families who are dealing with it.
In mental health they are not ready to accept him because he is an addict and in institutions for addicts they are not ready to accept him because he is mentally challenged.
"Today he is in a hostel. Between hospitalizations and hospitalizations we tried to keep him at home. In the beginning the addiction was dominant and today the schizophrenia is more prominent. He was a homeless person for a long time and you don't know whether to bring him home. I am an assertive person, a woman of exclamation points and today most of my life is signs Question. Ofer Kasif and I are on two ideological extremes, and it is hard for me to hear what he says about IDF soldiers and the occupation, but I see the person in him, the father to the children." It amazes me that with
your incredible sensitivity, you could not find compassion for the child The 8-year-old transgender from Givat Shmuel. You tried to take him out of school at the request of the class parents, instead of backing him up.
"There is an extreme group that does politics. The child is still there and is not found anywhere else. From the beginning of the event, I acted out of a desire for everyone to be well. The entire class is in chaos. On the one hand, the law of free and compulsory education, the rights of the child. All the parents chose this particular school. Until freedom Between B and C he was considered a boy, and suddenly he is a girl."
And what's the problem with that?
"Everything is cultural. You live in a certain environment and we are in a certain environment. There are things that we won't be able to understand each other. I am committed to the Torah and mitzvot, both in and out of writing. The world sees the big picture.
I was there to try and solve the problem and I believe that what is important is the resilience of the children and the rights of the parents."
Where will you move in two years, when Smotrich finishes his term and moves to the Ministry of the Interior?
"I don't know what will happen in two years. The budget needs to be passed, that's what the public is interested in. I may stay in the treasury for four and a half years. I invest my time, as if I will be here forever. The Creator of the world entrusted me with a deposit and I will do the best I can with it ".
Ministry of Finance