Yep, there is no rest for the wicked in Israeli politics. A little while ago Bibi was on top of the world. He annexed Kadima into a unity government lead by Shaul Mofaz by giving him the Vice Prime Minister “position”, a step that created the largest coalition in government in Israeli politics history (April 2012).
October 12, 2012 Moshe Kahlon a widely supported member of the Likud party and rising star, (as well as Minister of Communications and Minister of Welfare & Social Services), suddenly announced his retirement from politics. He was walked out with much fanfare, hugs kisses and warm wishes from Bibi who was actually, for his own agenda, sorry to see him go. What Bibi was worried about was the ever lurking, Moshe Feiglin. The pesky Manhigut Yehudit leading hardliner, ran against Bibi for the 2012 Likud leadership election in January 31 and received 23% of the vote.
October 25, 2012 Bibi, the Wiley Coyote that he is, announced the now infamous Biberman union (Bibi+Lieberman) of the Likud party and Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu – merging to a single party Halikud Beiteinu that will premier in the coming elections Jan. 22, 2013.
“A joining of forces will give us the strength to defend Israel from military threats, and the strength to spearhead social and economic changes in the country,” he said.
The polls showed that the union would form a strong base of at least 30 electoral votes with the other parties, Kadima, Labour, Shas (religious), Yesh Atid (Lapid’s new gig) holding smaller less threatening portions.
BUT THEN, the switcharoo. Moshe Kahlon who earlier announced his political hiatus for the sake of making some of the mighty green (he got a job from one of the local tycoons) had a change of heart. Why? Maybe the Biberman move was too much for him, maybe he realized that leaving the political scene would mean that when he got back he would need to contend with Lieberman. But in any case, today the news is that he is running some polls. The Polls are good. They show that if he runs with Tzipi Livni’s Kadima (what’s left of it) they would get 27 electorals opposed with the 30 electorals the Biberman union would get (Halikud Beiteinu). Or alternatively, if he ran with Shelly Yachimovich and her Labour Party the total would be the same as Bibi and that is an interesting place to be.
People are concerned with the Biberman union. It smells bad, here is a little parody just on that (Hebrew)
A surge in African immigrants has sparked a flurry of backlash from Israelis who feel that the new migrants are not welcome and pose a threat to Jerusalem’s identity. Some Israelis are now taking the law into their own hands and resorting to intimidation and violent attacks.
By law and an international refugee treaty, Israel is required to provide a place of safety for migrants who come to escape oppression and war from their home country.
An estimated 60,000 African migrants, primarily from Sudan and Eritrea, have managed to sneak past Israel’s border that it shares with Egypt. The absence of a fence and border patrol agents has made it easy for refugees to slip through unnoticed.
While Israel is steadily building a fence to seal the 125 mile border, migrants continue to flood the country at a rate of approximately 1,000 every month. Most migrants come with nothing but the clothes on their back. Most report being abused and badly mistreated by the Bedouins who smuggle them.
While African migrants still make up less than one percent of Israel’s total population, some Israelis feel the refugees are harming the country’s identity as a Jewish state.
Even top Israeli officials have used derogatory terms to describe the migrants, using names such as “cancer” and “infiltrators”. Even Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has taken a firm stance against the refugees and said that their increasing numbers can lead to the demise of the Jewish state.
Due to a 1951 U.N. treaty, Israel cannot deport refugees back to their country where their lives may be in jeopardy. Other options are being considered, such as looking for a third country that is willing to give them asylum.
Israel has been slammed by the U.S. State Department for granting asylum to only one of the 4,603 people who applied in 2011. Without legal status, migrants will not be able to work or receive health care.
This letter was published by Netanyahu’s office has been circulated with mixed responses. After the flytilla came through the Public Diplomacy page summarized:
“The Israel Police Implemented security measures today at Israels international airport in order to prevent any disruptions and and disturbances. 78 activists were denied entry into Israel. 18 flew back to the countries they came from and others will fly back within 24 hours. 9 Israelis were detained for causing public disturbances at the Arrival Terminal and where questioned by Police. “
Overall it went by pretty quietly and doesn’t seem to be a real success. That mostly depends on your political position though…for or against….
These days you need to keep and make new friends. Benjamin Netanyahu and wife visited Cyprus in a historic one day trip. He met with Dimitris Christofias the PM and signed a mutual rescue agreement that allows both countries to send troops for a limited time to the other country in times of a disaster.
The same agreement was once in place with Turkey but since relations went downhill, this is a little message to the Turks that no one is irreplaceable.
Netanyahu said that “the sanctions on Iran are not working. We are dealing with a country that break all international codes of behavior.” He also said that the US and other countries should worry about a country like Iran holding a nuclear weapon.
Cyprus also has a tense relationship with Turkey that’s blaming it for drilling for Natural Gas in its territorial waters. That has also made the relations with Israel more important recently for Cyprus.
During some previous discussions Israel has asked to place some fighters in Cyprus. The same sort of discussions have gone on with Greece, which has also been getting chummy with Israel.
Bibi’s new modus operandi is apparently negotiating with terrorists. And Egypt’s quasi military government working in a caretaker capacity isapparently, for all intents and purposes, terrorists.
On Tuesday, Bibi approved a prisoner exchange deal with Pharoah’s land, where Ilan Grapel will be released for 25 Egyptian prisoners. He should be out this Thursday. He has been held in an Egyptian prison since June 12. Negotiations between Egypt and Israel will continue in order to secure the release of Ouda Tarabin, an Israeli Bedouin who has been held by Egypt for 11 years on charge of spying.
Initially, Grapel was charged with espionage, however the charges werechanged to insurrection, incitement and damaging a public building during the uprising which took place in Egypt earlier this year and ousted old Hosni Mubarak.
The Grapel deal will free two Egyptian security offenders, charged with planning to target sites within Israel in cooperation with Palestinian militants.
Bibi’s office siadthat the deal was reached as a result of U.S. mediation.
National Union MK Aryeh Eldad criticized the decision to release Grapel for 25 prisoners saying that the deal is evidence that “Israel has declared moral bankruptcy…After freeing murderous terrorists for a drug dealer it is freeing drug dealers for a professional anarchist who worked against Israel in Bil’in,” Eldad said, alluding to the 2004 exchange deal between Israel and Hezbollah in which 430 prisoners were released for retired IDF officer Elhanan Tannenbaum.
“The State is emptying all concepts of law and justice from meaning. Tomorrow, they could offer the wholesale release of foreign workers indicted in Israel for robbery or rape in exchange of Israelis who sold drugs in Japan or Thailand…”
“Similarly to the Shalit swap, 48 hours will be given to file petitions to the High Court following the publication of the list of prisoners.
Meanwhile, an Egyptian security source said Tuesday that unprecedented security measures are being arranged at the Taba border crossing ahead of the imminent release of dual US-Israeli citizen Ilan Grapel, al-Ahram reported.”
As the Knesset has decided to build homes in East Jerusalem and settlements in Judea and Samaria such as the town of Ariel, a wave of adverse sentiments stress that this solution is counter-intuitive.
Sever Plocker of Ynet wrote that “east Jerusalem, West Bank settlements and the Golan Heights in Israel’s statistic figures reduces the per capita income and increases inequality.” He gets his facts from a recent study done by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Have a look at data done by the study:
Israel’s population within the Green Line included 6.7 million residents in 2009. An additional 440,000 residents lived in east Jerusalem, 290,000 in West Bank settlements, and 41,000 in the Golan Heights. From 1997 to 2009, the east Jerusalem population grew by 40% and the settlement population rose by almost 100% – at a pace of 8% a year. The Israeli population within the Green Line grew at a pace of only 2.2% a year during that period.
The economic inequality in the territories, which include the settlements and east Jerusalem, is 10% higher compared to the inequality in income within the Green Line – and in both cases it is one of the highest among OECD members.
The poverty rate in Israel, both within the Green Line and in the territories, is the second highest among developed countries – after Mexico.
The inclusion of the settlements and east Jerusalem adds about 4% to Israel’s gross domestic product, but reduces the GDP per capita by a significant rate of 6.5% a year. “Without east Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and the settlement, the GDP per capita within the Green Line would have been 6.5% higher. The post-1967 territories pushed Israel’s GDP per capita down,” the OECD rules.
In the budget year of 2007, the Israeli government spent some NIS 12.5 billion (NIS 14.5 billion in 2011 prices) on the West Bank settlements, Golan Heights and the annexed part of east Jerusalem – a 10% addition to the State Budget. In addition, NIS 5.5 billion were invested that year in the settlements and east Jerusalem, NIS 2.4 billion of them on housing construction.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking at the Knesset Finance Committee in response to the month long protests for social justice said the issues will “not be solved in days, but in weeks”.
Bibi said told reporters,
“They lived beyond their means using financial leverage and loans. That bubble has now popped… In addition to global issues Israel has specific problems. The first is housing, because Israelis pay three times the Americans do for housing and that’s not fair. The second one is deformity in taxes, and the third is that we have cartels and monopolies and we will take care of this. The last problem is the distribution of the burden…Certainly not in days, but we will do it in weeks…”
It was 70,000 two hours ago, then it started to rise and its still going strong. Israel Rail is asking people to step off the trains as more people are trying to get to the demonstrations. People have had enough. Tired of the political side stepping the injustice, tired of the 16% VAT, tired of carrying on their backs the orthodox organizations that leach on the rest of the population. Not being able to get to a home because of the cost of living. Tired of funding the pathetic excuse for government ministers whose only concern is stuffing their own pockets with complete disregard to the public, and office they are supposed to uphold. The public is demanding social justice. This can’t be ignored. This will not go away.
Over 200,000 in Tel Aviv
Who is missing in this demonstration? The orthodox groups and political representatives are not here. They are not here because they are partly to blame for the fleecing of the country and its people.
Israel has had a tradition of quite acceptance to what its leaders have dictated. Constantly playing on the fear of a lower defense budget. This is a time of change. This time the spell is broken. Empty promises by Benjamin Netanyahu and his finance minister, Yuval Steinitz and constant under estimation of this uprising is turning into the ideal climate for this fire to burn. Tonight it’s burning bright, and can no longer be ignored.
We may not place Bibi in a steel cage and put him on trial but in an advanced, civilized society, this is as close as his going to get.
Coming soon, a spike in coal taxation will lift the sum to NIS 1b in 2012. The excise hike at NIS 66 per ton of coal will see the electricity rate raised 4 percent.
In article in Globes compares the tax excise to a recent Bibi gas price spike earlier this year, when gas prices were raised in the 2011-12 budget, sending many an irate gas pumper pointing their finger at the Likud government. As a result, Bibi cancelled the excise hike. No boycott necessary. An example of democracy and a government who cares about her citizens.
A government that really cares.
According to research done by Globes, the only company in the land to use coal is Israel Electric Corporation. They burn 12 million tons per year at their plants in Hadera and Ashkelon. The IEC will not protest as they do not pay the price for coal. The coal price spike will be paid for by consumers who regularly refund utility through their electricity bills. The IEC currently owns 26% of the National Coal Supply Corporation.
The Ministry of Finance’s request to raise the excise on coal went to Knesset Finance Committee December 27, 2010, along with the request to raise the excise on gasoline and diesel.
On August 1, Israelis will pay the new fee beginning with the annual electricity rate update.
At this point, Israel meets roughly 25% of its energy demand from coal. The National Coal Supply Corporation is the mostly government-owned (74%) firm solely responsible for securing the country’s coal imports.
All of Israel’s coal supplies are imported. About half come from South Africa, the rest from Colombia, the United States, Indonesia, Australia, and Poland.
Israel imports some 10 million short tons of coal per year. Growth in coal demand is obviously driven by growth in electricity demand.
Greenpeace Organization activists climbed the Jerusalem Chords Bridge on Sunday protesting against the planned opening of a third coal plant in Ashkelon.
Last week, Greenpeace activists went to Jerusalem to protest the opening of a third coal plant in Ashkelon. They hung posters and a 60 foot banner from the Chord Bridge saying, “Bibi stop the coal plant.”
The project to build the new plant, called ‘Project D’, was promoted by Israel Electric Corporation and by the Ministry of National Infrastructures. The Environmental Protection Ministry claims that a coal plant will harm the air quality in Ashkelon.
They demand that the Ministry of National Infrastructures invests in more energy-efficient and cleaner options to produce electricity.
On Sunday, Greenpeace said that they
“hope [the government] took under consideration the disastrous outcomes of another polluting plant, hurting the Ashkelon residents’ health, as well as it’s ‘contribution’ to over a 10% increase in Israeli greenhouse gas.”
Greenpeace also said that the discovery of natural gas by both the Tamar and Leviathan drilling firms makes the coal plant increasingly superfluous.
Greenpeace Spokeswoman Hila Krupsky said:
“We are here today, on the Chords Bridge, to call on Netanyahu and remind him that coal burning is the major cause of pollution, morbidity and an increase in climate change…Just this past year we’ve witnessed a drastic change in the weather, a tough drought and barley any rain. We experienced the horrible Carmel fire in December. Today one can no longer ignore the climate change and the responsibility to stop this phenomenon. Benjamin Netanyahu, you are the head of this State and the responsibility rests on your shoulders.”
I am writing today with a somewhat unusual request. First and foremost, I will be asking that you return America to its August 20th, 1959 borders so that Hawaii is no longer a state and you are no longer a citizen.
Information, help and donations to the Carmel Fire victims – HERE
**See updates below.
Eli Yishai is the Minister of Internal Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister. The National Fire Department services are directly under his responsibility. He is the head of the Shas party and is an important part of the coalition that keeps Netanyahu’s party in government. He is the directly responsible guilty party that should be held responsible. He should be discharged from his position in government. He will not be. Our government is weak and this is the corrupt political structure we have. In a few months another commission will make suggestions and some low level dismissals will take place.
The only thing Eli Yishai will always worry about is money for the Orthodox party he represents (Shas) and, the all important fact the migrants should not be allowed to settle in Israel and are the cause of disease. This is what he considers the priorities of his office!
In my opinion Eli Yishai is a disease for Israel. He represents the uneducated, ignorent (Iran like), corrupt cancer that is eating up Israel and turning it into a fundamental, religious, backward country. Considering this is the only Jewish state we have, maybe we should not let this happen. As long as people like Eli Yishai can be allowed to govern and hold positions in the highest levels of government disasters like this will continue to happen.
Over 40 were killed in the last few hours in a fire that is raging on the carmel mountain and several other points in the North of Israel. There 135 firefighters – 135! that are fighting this mega fire and so far there is no signs of slowing down.
One of the main disasters of this event is the death of 40 officer trainees that were called into the scene to help the firefighters and were burnt alive in the bus that was taking them to the scene.
An ongoing investigation is showing that this maybe an arson and that the fire started in 3 different locations at the same time.
The recent weeks have been dry and there were no rainy days at all, making this one of the driest spells in Israel’s history. The North of Israel has been experiencing one of the worst “winters” in history with a record number of fires occurring in the past few weeks. The warning signs were there all the time and firefighters were warning that resources were low. Tonight when the “mother of all fires” has hit, it finds Israel unprepared.
Reinforcements are being called in from France, Greece, Cyprus and Bulgaria and there is a hope that planes with fire extinguishing equipment will be arriving later tonight.
A high ranking police officer Chief Deputy for Haifa Police (Ahuva Tomer) was interviewed earlier tonight, a few hours later she was caught in the flames and is now in critical condition in hospital with 80% burns to her body. Doctors are fighting for her life.
We are getting reports of several firefighters who are currently missing and some injured are being evacuated to the local Haifa hospitals. The current list of evacuated locations are:
UPDATE 11:02 PM 2/10/10
4 prisoners escaped tonight taking advantage of the evacuation of the local prisons in the area in a police vehicle (feel like the apocalypse yet?). They apparently took advantage of the evacuation of the Damun prison. The Prison Authority is now looking at the case and are checking the details. Damun Prison holds illegal aliens and petty crime offenders.
Interviews are showing the evacuees from local neighborhoods in the Carmel being moved to local hotels and hostels in the area. The forecast so far is that the fire will not end quickly and that the fire will continue to rage unhampered until the beginning of next week.
Another “interesting” announcement – Turkey our close “friend” has offered help. We should really check that they are not going to use this excuse as a way of landing equipment in Gaza as a way to “help”…
Barak has managed to get a commitment from the French government of approx. 40 tons of fire extinguishing materials.
Why are we asking for help from Azerbaijan?
Why doesn’t Israel “have the necessary tools to extensguish the fire” (Benjamin Netanyahu)?
How is a country like Israel, a supposedly advanced country, not have the capability to protect its citizens from a fire this size?
Is anyone going to be held responsible for this fuck up?
Will it be the right person (see above)?
UPDATE 8:02 AM 3/10/10
Planes from Bulgaria and Greece have landed in Ramat David airfield and with them a Bulgarian plane with 100 firefighters. There are so far 15,000 evacuees in the Carmel area. Kibbutz Beit Oren was 20% burnt down it was also the location of the bus that was burnt earlier. Additional towns that were evacuated include Osafia, Nir Etzion, and Tirat Hacarmel.
Ecologically this is the worst disaster ever in Israel. The Carmel woods were considered the most beautiful National Reserve in Israel and they are completely gone – 7.7 Square Miles of forest are gone and the fire is still raging.
The winds in the morning are intense and the fire is continuing to rage. Over night the fire reached highway 4 and it is now closed from Faradis Interchange in the North. So far there are 41 killed. Two Police officers and 2 firefighters are missing.
Tirat Hacarmel is being evacuated now and over the early hours of the morning Denia (a lucrative neighborhood) was evacuated as well.
Now would be a great time for Israel to declare peace with the Palestinians. And a good enough time as any for Palestinians to declare statehood.
So I’ll do my part: “Peace with the Palestinians.” This does not change anything. As if extending a settlement freeze by two-months would ensure peace in the region. What would Fatah do with two-months? How about ten months? Time enough to plant more olive trees? Print more flags? Jews started construction on 600 new homes in the West Bank since the moratorium was jettisoned last month (with the help of Palestinian workers, ignoring the PA’s boycott). That is Jewish integrity.
Nevertheless, PA PM Salam Fayyad is headstrong. He sees Jewish integrity and it sparks a flame on his tongue; his game of semantics is putting words in the world’s mouth. He said:
“The deadline is next summer, when the Israeli occupation of the West Bank must end…In 2011, we will celebrate 66 years of the United Nations and the United Nations will celebrate the birth of our nation.”
He said that Palestinians
“need to build national institutions in the West Bank and prepare for an independent Palestinian state…The people of Gaza must be involved in our national project…There are gaps between us, it’s true, but the real gap is the wall that closes off the Strip. Next week, I will try to enter Gaza.”
He may enter Gaza; it will not protect Palestinians under Fatah from Hamas. It would not stop the flow of Iranian military-grade armaments from Nigeria to Hamas in Gaza. Or any similar activity.
Fayyad said that he will give Israel “one more year of grace…but these colonies can no longer be there. They are illegal everywhere; here and Jerusalem…If it is true that Israel is interested in peace, it must block the settlers.”
If it is true that the Palestinians want peace they will make more of an effort to condemn Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah. They will see Jewish integrity and it will inspire them. Thomas Friedman recently said on an interview with Channel 2 in Israel something like: Netanyahu expects the PA to learn the words to “HaTikvah” in perfect Yiddish. Well, Mr. Friedman, what would be wrong with that?
Someone said recently that Israel views UN advice, such as extending the moratorium as mere recommendations. Are they, in actuality, anything but mere recommendations? And ones which show a lack of understanding and empathy for Zionism at that!
The best thing Israel can do for the Palestinians, at this point, is to set an example by its ingenuity and integrity. When the Palestinians learn these positive traits, they will see progress towards real statehood. Until then, Fayyad is a crybaby.
“The state that will rise will be Jewish in its function, purpose, and aim. Not a country of Jews settled in a land but a state for Jews, the Jewish people…” David Ben Gurion
Last Sunday, the first day of the Israeli workweek, Israel’s Cabinet approved a bill requiring new citizens to pledge a loyalty oath to a “Jewish and democratic” state.
It was in specific reference to the Law of Return, as almost all new immigrants to Israel are indeed Jewish.
The bill, which now faces a wider parliamentary vote, passed by a 22-8 margin.
“The state of Israel is the national state of the Jewish people and is a democratic state in which all its citizens — Jews and non-Jews — enjoy full equal rights…Whoever wants to join us, has to recognize us.”
“There is no other democracy in the Middle East. There is no other Jewish state in the world. Unfortunately, there are many today who tried to blur not only the unique connection of the Jewish people to its homeland, but also the connection of the Jewish people to its state.”
A correspondent of Al Jazeera contended in conversation, “some have argued that the bill will cast Israel in a bad light in the international community.”
What a shock!
Shmuel Sandler, a professor at Bar Ilan University defended the bill:
“You can stay whichever religion you want, whichever nationality. But if you want to become a citizen, you have to take the oath.”
Another Al Jazeera correspondent, Nour Odeh, from Ramallah said:
“Defining a state by the specific religious or ethnic background of the majority of its citizens is unprecedented”.
However an Arab State of Palestine would not allow Jewish settlers.
Unlike their Palestinian brethren in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, the Arabs (who make up roughly one-fifth of the Jewish Country’s 7,000,000 citizens), have the right to vote, travel freely and even claim munificent social benefits.
Same as anyone.
And apropos to these enraged or threatened Arab citizens of Israel, Mitchell Bard, Executive Director of the nonprofit American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE) and a foreign policy analyst told Haaretz in August, alluding to the Arab lobby in the United States:
“As for the domestic Arab lobby, even they are less pro-Palestinian than they are anti-Israel. Almost everything is anti-Israel. For example, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee’s resolutions mostly target Israel and ignore discrimination against Arabs by anyone other than Israel or the United States. They don’t support independence for Lebanon.”
“They rarely criticize terrorism. And so they have very little credibility with Congress. It shouldn’t be surprising if they are also unsuccessful.”
To shed some light on the issue.
“The powerful part of the Arab lobby isn’t so concerned about the Palestinian issue, they’re concerned about the welfare of the Saudis. And fights between the Israel lobby and the Saudi lobby are rare − there hasn’t been one since the 1981 arms sales fight.”
“In the last decade, the Israeli economy was faced with two crises: a local one and an international one.”
“We came out of both because we had an economic policy with vision. The budget we compiled today is a responsible and balanced budget that grants stability to the Israeli economy for the next two years.”
This is how the Prime Minister opened the cabinet meeting:
“The public in every country pays for going over the budget and unchecked spending…It may not be clear when a government goes over the budget, but we see what happened in some European countries. We can’t let such irresponsibility happen in Israel.”
“Naturally, we can’t meet every need, even though many are legitimate and important, but a leader’s job is to weigh priorities and make decisions.”
And with that the cabinet unanimously approved the new budget. The result of which is a decrease of NIS 2.7 billion – that’s 700 million US dollars, from the Defense Ministry’s budget over the two coming years.
In 2011-12 the systematic refill will happen in increments of 2.7% per year, standing the budget at NIS 271 billion, come the second year.
Well, Ehud Barak said the decision to cut his office’s budget was indeed necessary “given the economic and social reality.”
Though, a Kadima representative said that the new budget is:
“A complete public deceit. The most overblown and wasteful government in the history of the State has produced a budget that lacks policy and vision.”
According to Ehud Olmert’s party, the Labor ministers, “have no shame, and securing their seats is more important to them than the promises they made to their voters.”
Avigdor Lieberman’s Israel Beiteinu is not happy with the Prime Minister’s decision, per usual. Public Security Minister, Yitzhak Aharonovitch, said after the cabinet meeting:
“Israel Beiteinu is the senior partner [in the coalition]…but we’re treated otherwise. I say to the government and to the prime minister: We’ll meet in the Knesset…We’re voting against the budget – it will not pass!”
Aharonovitch says that the budget will skim from the Public Security Ministry NIS 700 million!
Also of Israel Beiteinu, Sofa Landver, Immigrant Absorption Minister railed on the cuts to her ministry:
“This is the first time since the establishment of the State of Israel that aliya is not on the government’s agenda,” she said. “The proposed budget is directly harming the absorption and encouragement of aliya. I call upon Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to get involved, because he said that the absorption of olim is a priority for our government.”
She refers to a diaspora, arguably feeling further isolated from the Jewish Country due to a new orthodox conversion law (currently opposed by the Prime Minister, currently…temporarily?).
Another milestone en route to turning into a highly developed economy, Israel’s per capita GDP will reach $30,000 this summer and the overall gross domestic product will reach $230 billion.
In the first half of the decade The Jewish Country fully reached the $20,000 per capita GDP mark. It happened slowly and reticently; the recession of the second Intifada curbed economic growth and pushed the economy backwards.
The state of the Israeli economy at this juncture is exceptionally good. Other economies whose per capita GDP is similar to ours – Spain, Greece, Portugal, and Britain – sustained harsh blows during the financial crisis. Their focus in the coming years will be on licking their wounds and attempting to extract themselves from the abyss of debt and deficit. Their recovery promises to be slow.
In six of the seven leading industrial powers, the ratio between government debt and GDP will grow by dozens of percentage points in the next few years. The debt will reach 90% of the GDP in Germany, 96% in France, 100% in Britain, 110% in the US, 130% in Italy, and 250% in Japan. In Spain, Greece, Portugal, and Ireland, the ratio will stabilize somewhere between the 100% to 150% mark.
Yet in Israel, the opposite should happen: debt will go down to only 70% of GDP. Israel’s banking system managed to overcome the past two years without taking a penny from the government.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented an ambitious goal for Israel: Joining the list of top 10 or 12 richest economies in the world. Based on today’s perspective, this target appears to be realistic. In order to make it happen, Israel needs to reach the $40,000 per capita GDP mark. To that end, the economy must grow at an annual rate of 6.5% in the next six to seven years, assuming that the shekel exchange rate won’t change much from its current level of about NIS 3.6 per dollar, and that the population will grow by 1.8% annually.
In the years 2003-2008, the economy in the Jewish Country grew at an average annual rate of 5.5%, and with a less convenient starting point and two wars in the middle.
The accelerated growth to happen in the coming years can be premised on the following: Tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox men joining the workforce, boosting the production of Israeli Arabs, improving the quality of education and employment, massive investments in educational and physical infrastructure, expanding the export base and directing it to new markets, slowing down the growth of the defense budget, and removing bureaucratic obstacles.
The kibbutzim reinvented themselves and have again turned into an economic asset and a stalwart growth accelerator; the discovery of natural gas by businessman Yitzhak Tshuva frees Israel of the dependency on coal and dramatically brings down the cost of electricity production; the Arab sector is witnessing an unprecedented entrepreneurial business revolution, and Israeli software companies are taking over Africa.
Israel’s economic rather than military wings are spread and flying independently.
When a “hot-tempered” Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman threatened Syria he was not necessarily expressing the sentiments of every representative of the Jewish country.
Last Thursday Lieberman warned Syrian President Bashar Assad, that in the event of a war with Israel,
“not only will you lose the war, you and your family will no longer be in power.”
During a business conference at Bar Ilan University, Lieberman said,
“Whoever thinks (Israeli) territorial concessions will separate Syria from the axis of evil is mistaken. Syria must be made to understand that it has to relinquish its demand (that Israel cede) the Golan Heights.”
His chutzpa is to be admired, but he was undermined by his colleagues:
“The foreign minister is busy with internal politics rather than diplomacy,”
Minorities Minister Avishay Braverman (Labor Party) said to a cultural forum in Ramat Hasharon on Saturday:
“Given Israel’s sensitive position in the international community, we are in need of diplomacy and a responsible and prudent foreign policy, not a policy that is driven by domestic political considerations.”
It is not that Lieberman’s sentiments were disagreeable, but it took Prime Minister Netanyahu to clear things up:
“Israel aspires to peace accords with all of its neighbors. We have done it with Egypt and Jordan and we can do it with Syria and the Palestinians…There are conditions for this. Negotiations must take place without preconditions that mean huge concessions on Israel’s part ahead of time. Also, the accord must finally be accompanied by security agreements in order to last for generations.”
Netanyahu also presented to his cabinet his plan to limit dependence on oil:
“Certain countries which control oil support terror…This is a global problem that requires international effort. I spoke of this with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, the Polish prime minister, and others, and they have expressed interest in this issue…This is an effort that will not bear fruit within the next two or three years, but within a decade we may reach a solution, for example on the issue of dependence on oil for transportation.”