Sever Plocker
Sever Plocker
Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Once again, Israel's poor have been kicked to the curb

Opinion: While Naftali Bennett's new government stands ready to tackle a myriad of important issues, it has failed to even acknowledge the disgrace that is Israel's excessive deprivation rate, one of the highest in the Western world, or the two million souls who forced to survive below the poverty line

Sever Plocker |
Published: 06.19.21, 18:19
Before being replaced by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett earlier this week, Benjamin Netanyahu headed the government of the State of Israel for no less than 12 years.
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  • Netanyahu lost his job not because of his failures, but because of his character. In recent years he has become his own worst enemy.
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    בנימין נתניהו
    בנימין נתניהו
    Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu
    (Photo: Yoav Dudkevitch)
    His egocentrism, his paranoia over the framing of his public and private life, his greed and hubris, his rampant incitement, all pushed Netanyahu’s adversaries from across the political spectrum to unite to finally get rid of him.
    It is doubtful they would have succeeded in that endeavor however, if Netanyahu himself had not helped them every step of the way with his arrogance and string of failures.
    Objectively, Israel thrived under Netanyahu: Despite severe global crises, Israel’s GDP grew by 50% between 2009 and 2021, worker wages increased by 25% and income inequality narrowed in the run-up to the COVID outbreak in Israel back in March 2020.
    Furthermore, about a million new jobs were created, exports doubled and Israel’s foreign exchange reserves reached almost $200 billion - enough to cover two years of imports into the country.
    Thanks to the country’s vaccination drive and Netanyahu’s unwavering belief in the science behind it, Israel’s economy managed to emerge from the pandemic relatively unscathed, at least compared to most other first world countries.
    The good Netanyahu did is reflected in the coalition agreements and guidelines of Israel’s new government.
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    אנשים מחפשים אוכל בפחים בצל משבר הקורונה
    אנשים מחפשים אוכל בפחים בצל משבר הקורונה
    A woman searches for food in the trash at Carmel Market in Tel Aviv during the coronavirus pandemic
    (Photo: Nadav Abas)
    What is missing from these agreements, however, is the promise to fight Israel’s extremely high poverty rate that was prevalent throughout all of the campaigning by the parties then in opposition and now in power.
    Instead, the coalition agreements only mention “economic challenges” - a laundered term to describe many important issues, some of which have dominated the public discourse for many years.
    It is therefore puzzling that Labor and Meretz - the two left-wing parties affiliated with social issues - did not demand that the fight against poverty be included in the coalition agreements.
    Israel’s poverty rate is among the highest among the Western world, almost double the average. Israel also has the dubious honor of being a leader in the poverty rate among families, children and the elderly. It is nothing short of an economic and social disgrace.
    Bennett’s “coalition for change” has set itself the goal of increasing the number of high-tech workers in Israel, but there is nothing about decreas the number of poor.
    This new government is obligated to set up a commission of inquiry to investigate the terrible disaster on Mount Meron, but no such promise was given regarding a commission to investigate the disaster that is Israel's abnormally high poverty rate.
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    אנשים מחפשים אוכל בפחים בצל משבר הקורונה
    אנשים מחפשים אוכל בפחים בצל משבר הקורונה
    An elderly woman looks for food in the trash during the COVID pandemic
    (Photo: Nadav Abas)
    The coalition agreement is dedicated to advancing a myriad of undoubtedly worthy causes, and yet the word poverty is nowhere to be found.
    Netanyahu leaves behind a complicated economic reality. Israel has growing economy capable of producing its own momentum and a strong middle class, but also bears the shame of two million Israelis living below the poverty line.
    It is disappointing then, that this new government seems unmoved by this disgrace.
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