Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told TheMarker last week that "if you leave the Arabs and the ultra-Orthodox out of inequality indexes, we're in great shape." He was asked about the issue after the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development released its Gini coefficient, which showed that over the past two decades inequality has grown in Israel, making it the second worst OECD country in this respect after the United States.
Netanyahu is trying to leave weak communities out of the equation; it's part of preparations for more protests this summer by winking at the middle class, which "feels it's financing [these communities]," as Netanyahu told TheMarker. And the middle class "is not always wrong."
The prime minister's statement is a perfect example of the inversion of cause and effect. The two communities he says are "the most problematic in Israel," the ultra-Orthodox and the Arabs, didn't get that way by themselves, they had the encouragement of Israeli governments, including the current one.
Netanyahu is a full partner in letting the ultra-Orthodox avoid studying the core curriculum, which is a key cause of unemployment. He can claim that "the extra 15,000 building starts aren't for the ultra-Orthodox, they're for everybody," but the truth is different.
There are many planks in the government's contribution in creating "problematic populations": a clause stipulating number of years married as a main criterion for subsidizing housing, Housing and Construction Minister Ariel Atias' decision that 45 percent of the apartments be allocated to families with three or more children, and the refusal to add a requirement ensuring that applicants are fully employed.
The government surrenders to the ultra-Orthodox's demands that they not take part in the workforce. But regarding the Arabs, the government is largely responsible for the many structural failures that afflict that community (low investment in education, discrimination in access to public resources, a critical shortage of industrial zones next to Arab cities and towns ). This has led to much lower employment rates among Arabs, particularly the women, than among Jewish Israelis, and to their exclusion from mainstream society.
Instead of drawing trees that ignore overlooked branches of Israeli society, Netanyahu should make sure the ultra-Orthodox enter the labor market. He should work to repair education, invest in development and - especially - encourage a positive public atmosphere as far as the Arabs are concerned.
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