The Bottom Line / It's all a matter of price
The separation fence. In business management studies, one is taught that every investment should be based on calculating the returns against the level of risk. But there are exceptions.
The separation fence. In business management studies, one is taught that every investment should be based on calculating the returns against the level of risk. But there are exceptions. Recently Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly described the security fence as the best economic investment, because it will prevent terror attacks and therefore let the economy grow.
But what if the Palestinians start firing rockets? And what if the complex, twisting fence, riddled with gaps, which requires 25 battalions to patrol it, does not stop them getting through? Then he will probably recommend a better investment: building a glass shield to cover the entire country, with a few openings for El Al planes. And if that doesn't do the trick, the very very best investment would be a personal suit of armor for each citizen. And, everything is for the best, economically, of course.
Initially, the fence was meant to be built along the Green Line, along a straight line, at a cost of NIS 1.5 billion. Then they calculated that the long, twisting fence will cost NIS 5 billion. Recently a treasury senior source put the cost at NIS 7.5 billion, and I am prepared to bet that the final price will reach NIS 10 billion - not including its maintenance.
Netanyahu wants to introduce a special "fence levy" along the lines of the Peace for Galilee tax. But in the same way that the 1982 Lebanon war was named Operation Peace for Galilee in Orwellian doublespeak, so the investment in the separation fence, which will cause hatred, terror attacks and conflicts with the U.S. and the world, will be our best economic investment.
Conscription. A public committee investigating the issue of compulsory military service reached the conclusion a month ago that the state should not call up every 18-year old to the army, but rather only those that the IDF really wants. Those that do serve should be paid the minimum wage, that is NIS 3,300 a month, compared to the current conscripts' wage of NIS 300-600. At the same time, all benefits, subsidies and breaks awarded to demobbed soldiers should be canceled, as everything would be included in the proper salary.
So maybe the time has come to change from a "people's army," a "melting pot" to a professional army for defense purposes. Even today not everyone joins under compulsory conscription. Among the Jewish population, only 78 percent serve. If you add in the Arab sector, this rate drops to 50 percent of those eligible. And they lose out economically, as well as risking their lives. While the ultra-Orthodox, the Arabs and the others who manage to wiggle out of the army can carry on learning or earning, those that do their military duty are dependent on their parents' generosity for pocket money.
We should adopt these recommendations that call for a fair wage for conscripted soldiers. This payment would introduce economic considerations into the equation, and then maybe the army would - surprise, surprise - begin to make cutbacks in their personnel numbers, and the number of draftees would fall.
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