Following are Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks at the start of the Cabinet meeting today:
"Before we get to the data, I would like to summarize 2011 by noting two of the Government’s and the State of Israel’s very major achievements.
In the past year, we successfully faced a global economic upheaval. We faced, and still face, an historic regional upheaval that is overtaking almost the entire Arab world – and we acted responsibly and have successfully passed through the crisis so far. But these two upheavals set before us very major challenges regarding security, the economy and diplomacy. We will continue to act responsibly and without rose-colored glasses. We see the reality as it is. We are maintaining the stability, security and strength of the State of Israel against whatever comes.
In the meantime, we may summarize the socio-economic year and also see where we are headed in these two areas. On the economic side, we have the year-end data and we know that the Israeli economy grew by 4.8%, more than the OECD countries, more than most of the leading countries around the world, and this is definitely an achievement.
Additionally, we know that unemployment has dropped to 5%, the lowest figure in decades. Relatively high growth and very low unemployment, this is not necessarily a situation that can be maintained in 2012, but it gives us very good conditions to start the year with. One of our missions will be to try and maintain this trend; that the arrow of growth will continue to rise.
The third mission in this area is, of course, socio-economic assistance that we have committed to carrying out. Two major benefits take effect today: A NIS 430 monthly bonus for working fathers of children up to age 3, for every child, and a NIS 215 monthly bonus for working mothers of children up to age 5.
In the Knesset, I was asked about how many people this entails. 280,000 working fathers will receive NIS 430 for every child under 3. Approximately 100,000 working mothers will receive a NIS 215 bonus for every child under 5.
This is a large, working population. This is major news and it takes effect today. It is impossible to say – as some have tried – that this is a handful of people, several thousand. This is incorrect. This is almost 400,000 people; this is very many.
This is not all. This week, we will take this security-economy-society triangle and we will get down to business. I will submit to the Cabinet what I believe to be the proper balance between security needs, economic needs, and social needs and – inter alia – we will bring an arrangement for including free education for children up to age 3. It is important to note that compulsory education for children up to 3 has been desperately needed here for 63 years. We will institute this in 2012. I think that this adds to the other news.
Of course, we are doing all of this while maintaining the budget framework; we are not breaking open the budget. We are maintaining the budget and – at the same time – will see to education and social needs, as you may see. Of course, we will continue to do what is necessary to maintain our security, perhaps with less money than the defense establishment would like but with enough, in my opinion, to maintain the State of Israel against its enemies."