Prime Minister Netanyahu: "Good morning. We are currently integrating teachers into the free education law, or the free education of children from age three law. Five months ago, we passed a Cabinet decision on free education for children from age three-four. This was designed to be spread out over three years, but already in the coming year, approximately 80% of relevant children will be integrated into the free education framework. This means approximately 250,000 children. This decision saves families, young couples and young parents approximately NIS 800 for every child.
This decision followed tax benefits that we gave to young couples. Add this to other things that we are doing, such as increasing competition in the cellular phone market, which also saves hundreds of shekels a month, and you will see an outstanding expression of our action to lower the cost of living in the State of Israel. I emphasize this because we see what is occurring around us, what is occurring in economies that are on the brink of collapse. We are administering and navigating the economy in a very responsible manner and are constantly working to lower the cost of living for citizens, but in a responsible manner, and we will continue to do so.
When I say that we see what is happening around us, we also see what is happening in Syria where civilians are simply being slaughtered. We see the horrifying pictures of children and the elderly. This is a slaughter that is being perpetrated not only by the Syrian government. Iran and Hezbollah are helping it, and today the world needs to see this axis of evil: Iran-Syria-Hezbollah – the face of this axis of evil is fully revealed for what it is. Everyone should understand the environment we live in.
We are in the midst of Hebrew Book Week and I think that it is important for us as a Government, a state and a people to encourage reading and writing. We are the People of the Book even in the Tablet age. And we are in the midst of a month of reading and literature. This is not self-evident. In the modern world in which we live, there is the possibility of unraveling and losing the ability to write and of authors to write and earn a decent living, and also the loss of the ability to read. When we were children, we read a lot. I think that many of us became used to our parents reading us a story. I would like to go back to this, but not just before bed, but to see to it that Israeli children actually read and that Israeli authors continue to write.
To this end, I have asked Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat to say a few words about what we are doing.
Minister Livnat: We are indeed in the midst of Hebrew Book Week. Mr. Prime Minister, this is the third year that the Culture and Sports Ministry is holding, throughout the country, the ‘Israel Reads’ project, a month of reading and literature, in the framework of which we are holding hundreds of various events in public libraries for children and adults.
Prime Minister Netanyahu: "One of the things that you told me is that public libraries are flourishing in the Internet age."
Minister Livnat: "Correct. I will speak about this during the Cabinet meeting. By the way, there are also Internet connections in the libraries to which there is access; there have been many, many entries. Moreover, of course, the public libraries are holding meetings with authors, tours in the wake of books and events in cafes with authors, and a long list of activities. All of this is to draw the public to reading, to authors and to poets. By the way, it must be said that not only authors are involved, but poets as well; poetry has a very important place. We are trying to encourage mainly children and youths to read, which is very important for maintaining the Hebrew language. We are committed to maintaining it. I would like to thank you, Mr. Prime Minister, for the support that have expressed for the law to protect literature and authors that we will submit to the Ministerial Committee on Legislation this afternoon."
Prime Minister Netanyahu: "We met this morning, Minister Livnat and I, with three authors and they are all in considerable distress. They all complained that an author works, invests and it is simply impossible for most authors to earn a living off their work, and this is a problem that we must deal with.
We want to work on a wide plane, in schools, in the educational system, and with the assistance that we give as the Government and as the Culture and Sports Ministry, so as to encourage reading and writing in Hebrew. This is a tough mission because the economic base of the national state of Hebrew-speakers is small, several million people. This creates self-evident economic problems. This is true in Norway, this is true in Sweden, it is true in Denmark and even in large countries such as France.
France, which has approximately 60 million people, with a giant Francophone reservoir, is still not large enough to deal with this problem. The only place that, maybe, deals with this problem is the English-speaking world and it could be the Chinese-speaking world as well. One thing is certain: If we want to have culture, even if it is the theater, or a culture of writing and the arts, or other cultural expressions, we must find solutions to the problem that the market, the normal market mechanism, cannot always solve.
Minister Livnat: Indeed so, there is a failure of the market here; this is a complicated and complex subject. There is an additional market failure here and we cannot live in a situation in which an author receives between NIS 0.80-2.00 per copy for a book he has worked on for three-four years. This is an impossible and an intolerable situation and it needs to be corrected."
Prime Minister Netanyahu: "An author that people want to read."
Minister Livnat: Yes, yes, the most read authors, I am not talking about an author that few people want to read or actually read. This is a failure that must be corrected. We are trying this experiment, we will evaluate it annually. Right now, it is for three years, but we will monitor it annually. This is part of the law by the way. I believe that thus we will be able to correct this failure, and authors will be able to write. I do not know if they will be able to earn a living because they also earn a living from lectures, from academia and from other things, but they will at least be able to receive fair compensation for their writing that they labored over so much."
Prime Minister Netanyahu: "I thank you all very much. Thank you."