| 23 February 2024, Friday |

New Israel finance minister aims to bring more Orthodox Jews into workforce

Israel’s economic growth and raising the number of ultra-Orthodox Jews in the workforce are my main target, said Israel’s likely new finance minister, Avigdor Lieberman, on Thursday.

Lieberman’s nationalist Yisrael Beitenu and seven other parties reached a coalition deal on Wednesday night that would unseat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu if it is ratified by parliament.

“This coalition will focus mainly on economic issues,” Lieberman, a former defense minister, told Israel’s Channel 13.

He said one major challenge would be to bring Israel’s “unreasonable” budget deficit under control.

Another was to bring ultra-Orthodox men into the labour force – currently only around half of them work, the others are devoted full-time to religious studies and rely on government allowances and handouts from donors.

“We will do everything to offer them an education and enable them to learn a profession and stand on their own two feet, as opposed to charity and all the stipends,” he said.

But the main target was to revive the economy, he said.

“We are a country that hasn’t had a budget for the past two years already,” he said.

On the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic, Israel’s economy contracted 2.6 percent in 2020 but could see growth of as much as 6 percent this year.

  • Reuters