Netanyahu under fire as Israeli economy suffers worst hit in decades

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Tel Aviv, Aug. 17, 2020 (dpa/Naija247news) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came under fire on Monday after the country’s Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) published the worst economic drop in decades.

Israel’s gross domestic product (GDP) shrank by 28.7 per cent in the second quarter of 2020, according to an initial estimate published by the CBS on Sunday.

That means the Israeli economy is now officially in recession, defined as two consecutive quarters with a drop in GDP.

GDP shrank by 6.8 per cent in the first quarter, which was only partially affected by measures to prevent the spread of the pandemic.

Israel imposed a lockdown in mid-March, which it gradually lifted in May, only for a second wave of the virus to hit the country.

The closing of and restrictions on businesses have wiped out four years of growth as the Israeli economy has regressed to the same level as the fourth quarter of 2016.

A full economic recovery is expected to take half a decade.

The coronavirus-induced slump is the worst since at least 1975, if not since Israel was founded in 1948.

“Netanyahu responded to the terrible new economic figures by saying, “This is very good economic news.”

“That’s not just detached, it’s dangerous,” opposition Leader Yair Lapid said.

“He denies reality. The emperor fiddles while Rome burns,” he told lawmakers of his centrist Yesh Atid party.

“Businesses will go bankrupt, people won’t be able to pay their mortgage … Unemployment is at a record high,” he said.

Netanyahu argued on Sunday that the drop in Israel’s GDP was mild, compared to the EU and U.S.

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