By Jeffrey Heller
JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday announced a plan to grant aid to all Israelis amid growing outrage over his handling of the coronavirus crisis, which is heading towards the worst scenario
Critics of the premier see the 6 billion shekels ($ 1.75 billion) package as an attempt to increase the popularity of the veteran politician before a series of widely expected lockdowns.
Payments will range from 750 shekels ($ 219) for individuals to up to 3,000 shekels ($ 875) for families with three or more children, Netanyahu said in a special television statement.
Now in his fifth term, Netanyahu is battling an increase in new coronavirus transmissions. He said in his televised statement that he was doing “his best” to avoid a new national lockdown and denied that street protests led to the new aid package.
“Why are we offering this money? We need to keep the economy moving,” said Netanyahu, asking his coalition government to approve payments. “This money will boost consumer spending and employment.”
The government reopened schools and many businesses in May, lifting restrictions that had flattened the infection curve. With new cases of Covid-19 now going over a thousand a day, some experts say the reopening happened too quickly.
With unemployment at 21%, a record, thousands of Israelis have protested against Netanyahu.