Poverty in Israel

In a recent survey it was found that 1 of 5 children in Israel live below the
poverty level. However, since the “poverty level” is an adjustable parameter
it is difficult to know exactly what this means in real terms. But, there is
little doubt that the question of poverty and of social services has been
raised higher on the national agenda than it has previously been relative to
questions of national security. It is difficult to know whether this is due
either due to the actual situation or to the success of Amir Peretz, who has
labeled himself the “champion of the workers.”
I saw a statistic that said that Israel was seventh in the world, but before
you celebrate note that the statistic was about corruption. This index is
based on internal polls about how much corruption citizens experience in
their lives. So Israel is high on this list because we have a lot of
corruption. This used to be called “protekzia,” when Israel was a small
incestuous country, run by a small group of Eastern European Ashkenazi
leftists. But, those days are long gone, and now its a problem of paying
under the counter.
There are so many examples, in Haifa a group of driving test
inspectors were selling driving certificates to any driver willing to pay up
front. This went on for years, and resulted in thousands of unqualified
drivers on our roads. The Chairman of the Israel Aircraft Industries has
been criticized for buying a company that was greatly over-valued, so that
he could be personally enriched. In the Knesset there are at present 12
MKs (10%) who are either under suspicion, under investigation or
indicted for corruption. All of this adds to the poverty and inefficiency
of this country.
Overall the rich are getting richer and the poor, poorer. The top 10% of wage
earners earned 12 times the income of the bottom 10%. Although Israel’s GDP
per capita has increased tremendously in the past 20 years, now standing at
$16,452, the growth is not shared evenly. Women earn ca. 63% that of men,
and Arab men earn 75% that of Jewish men, while Ashkenazis earned 136%
per capita. In terms of overall inequality Israel ranked 49th out of 124
countries analyzed by the UN Development Program. Note that the US was
74th, more unequal. (Note that the GDP for the PA is ca. $1,000 a year,
similar to Jordan and Syria, but that’s another story).
Last year the overall economy grew about 5%, while the hi-tech sector grew
100%. So while there are some positive aspects of the Israeli economy, there
are also many problems. Bibi Netanyahu when he was Finance Minister, was
grappling with some of these problems while privatizing Government companies.
If Amir Peretz, new head of Labor, gets his hands on the economy, the poorer
elements of society will be preferred, and the economy as a whole will
probably nose dive.

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