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March 10, 2020 4:26 pm

Head of Israel’s Largest Union Warns Economy ‘on the Brink of a Yom Kippur’ Due to Coronavirus

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Airline employees wearing masks walk in the arrivals terminal at Ben-Gurion International Airport, near Tel Aviv, Israel, March 10, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Ronen Zvulun.

The head of Israel’s largest union warned on Tuesday that “we are on the brink of a Yom Kippur for the Israeli economy,” which “cannot hold more than 48 hours as it is today” due to the coronavirus outbreak.

His remarks came as the train line to Ben-Gurion International Airport was shut down to foreign travelers, nursing homes banned family visits and the IDF called up a group of reservists to assist in its efforts to fight the spread of the virus.

The Israeli news site N12 reported that, at a special press conference, chairman Arnon Bar-David of the large and influential Histadrut union said, “Huge companies are on the verge of collapse. Workers have already been laid off and thousands of workers have been put on furlough — which will hurt tens of thousands of workers and families in Israel.”

“We are on the brink of a Yom Kippur for the Israeli economy,” he said. “I’m anxious for the fate of the Israeli economy and society.”

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He called on the Israeli government to work together with the Histadrut to contain the crisis, saying, “We need economic leadership now. … The Israeli economy needs leadership, quick decisions, and a flow of money to stop the bleeding.”

“The economy cannot hold more than 48 hours as it is today,” Bar-David asserted, and demanded that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appoint a corona czar to deal with the problem.

He recommended the dispersal of massive government grants to the hardest-hit industries in the country, particularly travel and tourism.

Speaking for the business community, the head of the Israel Chamber of Independent Organizations and Businesses, Roi Cohen, slammed the government’s reaction to the crisis, saying independent contractors and the self-employed would be particularly negatively impacted by the crisis.

He urged radical action to get the government’s attention, saying, “I urge the Histadrut together with the business sector to disrupt and block the swearing-in of the [new] Knesset until a real response is given to the business sector and the economy.”

“It is time to do something that will shock the state,” Cohen asserted.

The president of the Israel Builders Association, Raul Srugo, said Netanyahu and his top political rival Benny Gantz should stop their infighting and “establish an economic emergency government.”

As the crisis continued to intensify on Tuesday, the Israel Railways administration announced that the train line to Ben-Gurion International Airport would be closed to passengers arriving in Israel.

The decision came after the government’s decision on Monday to place a blanket two-week quarantine on all travelers entering the country.

In addition, the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services banned all visits to nursing homes by friends and family members. Only essential staff will be allowed entrance. This is due to the fact that elderly people are considered particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus.

The IDF also called up around 70 reservists in order to organize a Home Front Command service to provide information on the coronavirus, and 100 reservists were called up to reinforce the emergency service Magen David Adom.

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