Jerusalem, Israel - May 30, 2023 - The annual Eli Hurvitz Conference on Economy and Society, formerly the Caesarea Economic Policy Planning Forum, sponsored by the Israel Democracy Institute, is recognized as one of Israel's most influential economic conferences. 

For 30 years, the conference has served as a crossroads where public discourse and professional knowledge in economics and society meet, with the aim of improving the decision-making processes in the administration and improving the quality of Israel's social and economic policy for the benefit of the public.  

This year’s conference, held May 30-31, includes the participation of Israeli Government Ministers and Knesset Members, directors-general of government ministries, and senior leaders from civil society, academia, as well as the public and private sectors. 

The first day morning opening session with Finance Minister Betzalel Smotrich, led by Israel Democracy Institute President Yohanan Plesner was unlike previous years.  Loud protesters were across the street outside the Orient Hotel where the conference was held. 

During the Finance Minister's attempts to deliver his planned address, from the media section across the hotel ballroom, protesters raised signs and then loudly disrupted his attempts to give his speech. 

Director General of the Finance Ministry Shlomi Heisler was also heckled as he tried to speak at the conference, but not by the full group as earlier.

The long list of first-day speakers included Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion; Head of  Bank of Israel Amir Yaron; Martin Wolf; former Bank of Israel Head Professor Karnit Flug; economist Zvi Eckstein; Cheif Economist Israeli Finance Ministry Shira Greenberg; former Bank of Israel's Professor Yaakov Frankel; Israel Innovation's Dr. Ami Appelbaum, and MK Avigdor Liberman.

The first day of IDI’s Eli Hurvitz Conference included an afternoon session dedicated to the high cost of living in Israel. The value of the shekel was a constant theme throughout the day.

Histadrut Labor Federation Chairman Arnon Bar-David began, "The judicial overhaul is permeating and harming Israel’s economy, and poisoning everything we know. As a result, Israel is working without a plan. It is difficult to point to one government ministry that is promoting correct reforms and is in control of the situation. On the contrary - I see a lack of action and a focus on what is not important."

Shachar Turjeman, Chairman of the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce stated, “The successive governments of Israel are to blame for the high cost of living. In a despicable way, the government places the blame on the business sector even though they know that the blame lies at their door. The government sets the prices of water, gas, and electricity. The state collects VAT, while in the rest of the world, it is differential."

Uri Kilstein, CEO of Carrefour mentioned, “In Israel, only 6.5% are non-brand small businesses, compared to 35% in Europe. That’s the meaning of industry concentration. If you make a change in Israel from 6.5% to 35% you’ll reduce prices by 10%.”

Founding Partner and CEO of Lobby 99 Linor Deutsch added, “The prices keep rising. Why? Because five large monopolies own 40% of the food market in Israel. The problem of industry centralization is the result of many years and until it’s dealt with honestly and bravely, everything else is just talk.”

Also, today it was announced by the Prime Minister's Office, Benjamin Netanyahu had a meeting with Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter, and professional teams. The fight against the cost of living was discussed and "urgent steps are needed in the fight against the cost of living." Smotrich, in coordination with Economy and Industry Minister Nir Barkat, would submit measures on the opening of the market, the cancellation of cartelization, and lowering regulation, together with a timetable for their implementation.