Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich on Tuesday canceled a recently imposed tax on sugary drinks in the name of fighting inflation, raising concern among health professionals.
The cancellation of the tax allows
"a significant drop in current household consumption expenditure"
, said Bezalel Smotrich, head of the far-right Religious Zionism party in a press release, a few days before the Passover holidays. , which begin April 5.
Introduced in early 2022 by the government led by Naftali Bennett, this tax increased by one shekel (0.26 euros) the price per liter of sugary drinks containing more than five grams of sugar per 100 milliliters.
Arié Deri, leader of the ultra-Orthodox Sephardic Shass party, the main majority party behind Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud (right), welcomed the ministerial directive, calling the tax instituted by the Bennett government a "political"
which, according to him, was aimed at
"the underprivileged sections of society".
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The ultra-Orthodox are known to be major consumers of sugary drinks, especially during the holiday season, and Arié Deri had pledged to have this tax canceled during the campaign for the November legislative elections which allowed the return to power of Mr. Netanyahu through an alliance with far-right parties and ultra-Orthodox parties.
Bezalel Smotrich specifies that his ministry intends to work together with that of Health
"to examine the means of encouraging the consumption of healthy foods and reducing the consumption of sugar"
"Overconsumption of sugar"
For Hagai Levine, president of the Israel Association of Public Health Physicians, the cancellation of the tax is
"medically, financially, socially and publicly irresponsible"
"This is a massive giveaway to beverage companies at the expense of the public and public health,"
Asked by AFP, the Ministry of Health declared that it recommended
“totally avoiding sugary drinks, a key factor in the overconsumption of sugar”
Israel's parliament on Tuesday also approved a law allowing hospital directors to ban any food containing sourdough from their establishments during Passover.
Jewish religious law prohibits the possession and consumption of these products during this period.
In 2022, the Bennett government authorized the distribution of bread or yeast dough in hospitals on Passover, which led to the defection of a majority MP, a prelude to the fall of the government.