Poll: Nearly 50% of Israelis Fear State Pushing Them Into Poverty

Survey finds 25% of respondents have cut spending in past year, including on food and medications.

About half of the public is concerned that government policies will force them into poverty while only a quarter of the population expresses a sense of security about their economic situation, according to a survey conducted by the Forum to mark International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. The day is being marked around the world today, and, at the initiative of the forum, a coalition of social welfare organizations, the day is being officially recognized in the Knesset.

The survey polled 500 Israelis. A quarter of those questioned had cut their spending in the past year, including some people who had reduced outlay on food and medications.

Seventy-seven percent of those surveyed said the blame for poverty cannot be placed exclusively on the poor, and that the government has a responsibility to help the poor escape the cycle of poverty.

"I have great hopes that cabinet members and members of the Knesset will lend an ear to people living in poverty," said forum member Roni Strier of the social work school at Haifa University. "It's an opening for new discourse," Strier said, "to be based on a partnership recognizing the human rights [of the poor] and their needs and difficulties. Only such dialogue ... will, on the one hand. contribute to strengthening their capabilities and their departure from the margins [of society] and, on the other, will restore public trust in the government and its policies in order to reduce poverty ...."

According to a follow-up report submitted to the Knesset Finance Committee this week by the Israeli Center for Social Justice, the government is not implementing its socioeconomic decisions. The report surveyed implementation of a plan announced in August 2007 by the government of former prime minister Ehud Olmert and subsequently approved by the Netanyahu government.

The plan's two goals for 2010, involving increasing the rate of employment and reducing poverty, included devoting resources to occupational training, expanding the availability of day care and making transportation accessible, especially for the underemployed in certain segments such as the Arab and ultra-Orthodox sectors. Although the plan was announced more than two years ago, there has been no systematic follow-up on its implementation. According to the Economic Arrangements Bill that accompanied the state budget, it was decided to defer the target date for fulfilling the plan until 2013 - although the provision was not debated.

The Israeli Center for Social Justice report said the rise in employment during the first year of the program was attributable to the rapid growth of the economy at the time and not implementation of the plan. The report also says: Poverty is growing.