Steinitz warns of populist election-time attacks on business

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz warned yesterday that business has become the focus of political attacks as the campaign season gets underway. Israel goes to the polls on January 22. "Attacks are being made on the business sector in the spirit of the social justice protest and in the name of defending workers," Steinitz told a meeting of the Coordinating Office of Economic Organizations. "You should demand that all the candidates for prime minster or for the post of finance minister commit themselves to encouraging economic growth and to reject populist ideas," he said. Israeli businesses can expect a rougher ride next year as a result of the deteriorating economic situation in Europe and the need for the next Israeli government to take steps to cover a widening fiscal deficit. Steinitz vowed to help find ways to reduce taxes and red tape for businesses, saying, "Your voice will be heard." (Moti Bassok and Ora Coren )

Tax officials raid offices of Turkish Airlines in Tel Aviv

Israel Tax Authority officials raided the offices of Turkish Airlines in Tel Aviv yesterday. The authority is investigating alleged tax evasion worth several hundred thousands of shekels. Investigators confiscated documents and computers. Aviation industry sources said they were surprised, and had no information whatsoever on the matter. Some foreign airlines benefit from mutual tax treaties, but all airlines must pay the appropriate taxes on their employees' wages here. Despite tense relations between the two countries, Turkish Airlines has been trying to expand its operations in Israel and has raised the number of daily flights from Tel Aviv to Istanbul to three. Most of the passengers from Israel transfer through Istanbul for cheaper flights to further destinations, mostly in the Far East and North America. The tax authority declined to comment. (Zohar Blumenkrantz and Moti Bassok )

Israel Chemicals forms internal technological incubator

Israel Chemicals, a unit of The Israel Corporation, will budget NIS 10 million a year for innovative projects in businesses related to its own operations, the company said yesterday. ICL Innovation will operate in the same way as a technological incubator: ICL will solicit proposals that "address global needs and accelerate the development of sustainable new products and processes to drive the company's future growth." ICL Innovation is looking for a select number of product ideas and projects from a range of sources, including academic institutions, research institutes, technology cooperatives, incubators and venture capital funds. The main projects will be in areas of water, energy, fertilizers, food supply, materials and special chemical applications. The model is known in the industry as open innovation. Each project selected will be "adopted" by an ICL business unit, which will provide support and supervision. After commercialization, the business unit will market the product and incorporate the process into its own operations. (Ora Coren )

Bedouin women want to work, but are impeded by lack of Hebrew

Bedouin women in Israel have an extremely low employment rate, between 9% and 19%, compared to 25% for Arab women in the north of the country. This affects the economic status of Bedouin families, and the average per capita income in Bedouin communities is only NIS 3,000 per month, according to figures released by the Industry, Trade and Employment Ministry yestedrday. Some 61% of Bedouin in recognized communities are below the official poverty line. In unrecognized Bedouin communities, the figure is almost 80%. The biggest barrier to the integration of Bedouin women into Israeli society and into its workforce is language, said Naam Bashtawi, the head of the Atid College in Beit Zarzir. In response to the problem, the college opened a course this week dedicated to teaching Hebrew to Bedouin women. (Tali Heruti-Sover )