image Photo: Flash90

Inflation rate soars in Israel

This, according to the latest data released by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS).

By Erin Viner

Over the past year, Israel’s inflation rate has risen by 5.4% – marking a 14-year high in January.

The rate is expected to remain at 5.3%, according to a Reuters poll of economists.

The consumer price index, IN which the CBS slightly adjusted its basket weightings, rose 0.3% in January 2023 from December 2022.

The economic development comes amid warnings from financial sources that Israel’s pending judicial overhaul poses threats to the national economy.

Weekly mass public protests erupted nationwide following announcement by Israeli Justice Minister Yariv Levin of a sweeping “reform of governance” that will limit Supreme Court rulings against government moves or Knesset laws, while increasing politicians’ input over nominations to the bench. The government, which took office this month, insists the changes are necessary to curb overreach by activist judges and will restore balance between the legislative, executive and judiciary.

In a rare televised appeal for postponement of the controversial legislation, President Isaac Herzog made warned that the nation is “on the brink of constitutional and social collapse” just “a moment away from a collision – and even from a violent collision.”

The country’s five main banks – Hapoalim, Leumi, Mizrahi-Tfachot, Israel Discount and the First International Bank of Israel – also issued an uncommon statement in support of Herzog’s efforts to reach broad understandings over the matter – which they said would benefit the national economy.

Moreover, Israel’s Central Bank Governor Professor Amir Yaron stressed to the Knesset Finance Committee that institutional independence is critical for Israel’s sovereign credit rating.

S&P Global Ratings director Maxim Rybnikov has explained that, “If the announced judicial system changes set a trend for a weakening Israel’s institutional arrangements and existing checks and balances this could in the future present downside risks to the ratings. ”

According to a survey published yesterday by the public Kan network, 50% of Israelis oppose the changes to the judiciary while only 28% are in support.

Despite the  presidential and bank pleas, public dissent by tens of thousands of protestors outside the Knesset – as well as a statement of concern from United States President Joe Biden – the Israeli parliament’s Constitution, Justice and Law Committee passed a motion in a 9-7 vote on 13 February to advance the bill to the full parliament for approval, in a process expected to take weeks.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has repeatedly asserted that the reform plan would strengthen democracy and benefit the nation’s economy.

Jerusalem is currently formulating a 2023 state budget which must be approved by the Knesset by late May. Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich has pledged to maintain fiscal responsibility alongside the introduction of new measures to ease living costs and reduce inflation.

Israel’s rightwing 37th government is an alliance between the Premier’s Likud party with several smaller religious and hard-right nationalist factions which assert they hold the mandate for sweeping change. Likud politicians have long accused the Supreme Court of being dominated by leftist judges who they say encroach on areas outside their authority for political reasons.