The previous government in Israel had introduced a tax on sweetened drinks as part of the campaign to reduce their consumption, considering that they are unhealthy.
However, Tuesday saw Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich sign a directive aimed at canceling the said tax.
The tax removal
The ultra-Orthodox parties in the coalition had demanded the removal of this tax, as they claimed that it had been deliberately introduced for targeting their communities.
Warnings had been issued about the impact on health of such a move and the finance minister said that a team would work with the Health Ministry to reduce sugar use and promote healthy eating habits.
The development was praised by the Shas party leader, MK Aryeh Deri, while the doctors’ union in Israel slammed the move and said that it would damage public health.
The directive was scheduled to be brought forward later in the day for approval in the cabinet.
Smotrich issued a statement that the shopping basket expenses of the public would be significantly reduced ahead of the Passover holiday that would begin from April 5th.
According to the finance minister, consultations had been held between Treasury officials, heads of major local authorities and leading manufacturers of soft drinks.
They had all committed to reducing the prices in the next three days.
Avigdor Liberman, the head of the Yisrael Beytenu party in the opposition, had been Smotrich’s predecessor and had introduced the said tax.
The Haredi, or the ultra-Orthodox, community had criticized tax, claiming that it was a deliberate move against them.
This tax had also come with a tax on single-use plastic utensils to reduce environmental damage, but the ultra-Orthodox had issues with that as well and it is also being cancelled.
Deri, who is an ally of the finance minister, welcomed the announcement and said that Liberman’s political tax had been cancelled.
He said that rather than hitting the pocket of the public to educate them, it is better to do so through effective and smart information.
The Israel Medical Association, on the other hand, criticized the directive of the finance minister and said that it was a lack of responsibility for economics and public health.
It said that they were giving the beverage companies a great gift at the expense of the public and their health.
It added that this move showed that commercial and political interests are more important than public interests.
According to the IMA, the team that Smotrich had mentioned was nothing more than ‘sugar coating’ and said that past recommendations from professionals had been to ban advertisements of sweetened drinks and to impose the tax.
The IMA stated that the government was not listening to the voice of reason, science or health.
Since ultra-Orthodox people rely more on these products, they had claimed that the measure was to target them.
Before the elections last year in November, Smotrich had said that the tax imposed on the beverages was ‘delusional’ and said that it was not a public health issue, but a cost-of-living one.