Aid Groups Demand Gov't Action in Wake of CBS Report

Social advocacy groups call on the government to draft a long-term plan to combat the growing gaps in poverty rates between Israel and Europe.

Social advocacy groups called on the government on Sunday to draft a long-term plan to combat the growing gaps in poverty rates between Israel and Europe. The move follows the recent release of a Central Bureau of Statistics report that found a third of Israelis are in danger of falling under the poverty line.

"This is one threat that is not considered when drafting strategic plans," the advocacy group Forum for Social Justice said, "The Netanyahu government is dragging its feet and ignoring the issue in the best case, and in the worst is contributing to widening social gaps. We demand that new, up-to-date objectives be set to confront poverty, and for these objectives to be properly budgeted."

They added that the government must reexamine its map of national priority zones to better reflect areas most in need of government assistance. They noted that some communities in national priority areas - like the Negev town of Omer - are relatively affluent and in no need of aid, while others in non-priority areas - such as Ramle and Lod - continue to struggle.

Tomorrow the Knesset will mark the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty with a series of discussions on reducing socioeconomic discrepancies.

"Those who formulate national economic policy have to internalize the fact that in addition to a strong, stable economy, a society is judged based on narrowing social gaps between rich and poor," said MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism ), chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee. "These gaps are growing in Israeli society, presenting an existential threat and a ticking social time bomb."

Eran Weintraub, director of the non-profit group Latet, said yesterday, "The finance minister must make the necessary policy changes, devoting the energy he dedicated to helping Israel join the OECD to keeping the country from last place in the West in all things related to poverty."

Oshrat Maimon, an attorney with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, said she was not surprised by the study.

"The data precisely reflect the policy of the government as well as its predecessors," she said. "The government set reducing poverty as a goal many years ago, but it has been postponed time and again. No comprehensive interministerial plan for combating poverty was ever put in place. In fact, current policy actually hurts the weakest classes."