Hearing the Minister of Labor and Social Affairs interviewed on the radio, one can get dizzy listening to the evasions, half-truths, self-righteousness and hypocrisy. After Shlomo Benizri finishes his show, the listener might imagine him flopping into his armchair with a satisfied smirk, as if to say, I fooled the media once again.
Yesterday, Benizri was interviewed on the the question of unemployment, which in the fourth quarter 2001 hit a record 258,600, with the number of job seekers also soaring to a record of 209,300. Benizri spoke as if he were from the United Nations, as if he had no connection to the matter, as if he wasn't a member of the government, as if he didn't preach in favor of every extreme action that fans the flames of the Middle East cauldron and is if there was no connection between those flames, the economic situation and unemployment, and most importantly, as if he didn't happen to be the Labor Minister responsible for the matter.
As a preventive step, Benizri suggested that all temporary workers facing redundancy be given tenure in government offices. An excellent solution. One could even take it a step further and give all 209,300 job seekers tenure in the public sector. In that way we could get rid of unemployment in one fell swoop. Of course, if Benizri wants to take a look at an economy that actually implements things like that, then he can take a look at the former Soviet Union.
Benizri has decided to compete with A.D. Gordon's religion of work, and therefore, he said that the government had decided this week to limit the increase in the number of foreign workers for the agriculture sector to 6,000 because "the farmers should employ Israeli workers." Spirited talk indeed. But, who are these Israelis that the farmers should employ?
Let's take a look at one well-known sector - the Ultra-Orthodox. In Israel, there are 115,000 Haredim over the age of 18. In the large yeshivas, there are 31,000 bachelors and there are 44,000 married men registered in kollels (yeshivas for married men). Altogether, that makes 75,000 people who aren't even dreaming about work. In other words, as a matter of ideology, two out of every three Ultra-orthodox men don't work; rather, they live on the bent over backs of the taxpayer. So perhaps what Benizri is suggesting is that 6,000 Haredim go and work in agriculture?
And when I say don't work, I'm refering only to official figures, because what happens unofficially can be illustrated by the following little story: Yesterday, a student of the "Or Haim" Kolel, Shaul Koka, was released on bail. While Koka declared an income of NIS 3,000 a month (and as a result was exempt from paying tax), tax officials found NIS 2.5 million in his bank accounts. Koka had forgotten to report to the tax authorities that for some years he had worked as a presenter at rabbinical conventions. And how old is this young student? 60. May he live till 120.
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