The State of Israel is on the verge of an “economic Yom Kippur War” if greater economic leadership is not discovered amid the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, the leader of Israel’s trade union warned on Tuesday.” The economy is bleeding, huge companies are on the verge of collapse, layoffs have started,” said Histadrut labor federation chairman Arnon Bar-David.
“If the government does not wake up, and the prime minister does not start managing the event, working together with the Histadrut and the employers, then we are on the verge of the Yom Kippur War of the Israeli economy.” Bar-David called on the government to first provide assistance in the form of grants to the aviation and tourism industries, which are particularly struggling due to restrictions on travel implemented by the Health Ministry.
On Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that two weeks of self-quarantine would be required for all citizens and foreign nationals arriving in the country from abroad.
“This is the final hour, the last call, before the total collapse of entire industries in the Israeli economy,” Bar-David said. “I think the prime minister understands the difficulty. The messages I have sent to him in recent days have been clear.”
The president of the Israel Chamber of Independent Organizations and Businesses (LAHAV), Roee Cohen, called on tens of thousands of self-employed workers across the country to physically block the opening of the 23rd Knesset, scheduled for March 16.
“We need to tell the politicians: Enough of abandoning the country. Take responsibility. Manage the country,” said Cohen. “Half a million self-employed and independent workers cannot do any more. We paid the price in floods, fires and war. Enough.” Cohen demanded a compensation fund and deferred taxes for independent workers, and not loans that ultimately need to be returned.
“We want a working government and we want answers. We will go to the Knesset and block the swearing-in ceremony. The politicians are disconnected from the public,” Cohen said.
Israel Hotel Association president Amir Hayek said the hotel industry was experiencing a “horror film” with plunging occupancy rates across the country. While average hotel occupancy at this time of the year usually stands at 70%, occupancy rates stood at just 25% in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Six out of 10 hotels in Nazareth had closed due to declining demand. A swift financial solution is necessary, Hayek said, to prevent the layoff of 60% of all hotel industry employees.
“I want to thank the Israelis who are voting with their feet and booking. They are very important to us,” said Hayek. “A government that knows how to manage a crisis knows how to manage public health and economic health. One doesn’t need to come at the expense of the other.”
Raul Srugo, the president of the Israel Builders Association, warned of the damage that would be caused if the government decides to deny access to the 65,000 Palestinian construction workers that enter Israel on a daily basis. Palestinian workers constitute approximately 80% of Israel’s workforce, Srugo said, are critical for all residential and infrastructure construction projects.
Calling for as much as NIS 40 billion ($11.35b.) in government support for the business sector, Srugo called on Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz “to stop the childplay and form an emergency government.”
“I don’t want to hear about the Joint List or a narrow government,” he said. “What we need is economic leadership, and it starts with the prime minister. We need a financial ‘supertanker’ and the money needs to be transferred to the business sector immediately.”