Israel’s other challenges

Other, as in other than security, and peace. This from Globes:

The Finance Ministry’s tax revenues report shows 52.3% of Israelis earning below the monthly income tax threshold of NIS 4,905.

The Ministry of Finance’s latest tax revenues report shows 52.3% of Israelis failing to earn above the income tax threshold of NIS 4,905 per month. In all 54.5% of salaried employees fail to reach NIS 4,905 per month and 33.8% of the self-employed. The report also found that the highest 20% of earners paid 80% of Israel’s direct taxes.

That’s one point of reference. Israel has its issues.

But look at this for shocking statistics about the spread among the cities:

The report also reflected the growing regional inequalities in Israel. Tel Aviv residents are responsible for 27% of all the income tax paid in Israel, Haifa residents 12.2% and Jerusalem with double the number of residents as Tel Aviv is responsible for only 6.8% of income tax paid.

Either Jerusalem has an amazing collection of tax dodgers, or an awful morass of poverty. It’s the latter. Israel has its issues.

And how about this for inequality:

The report also reflects gender inequalities. In 2012, the average gross income of an Israeli man was 63% higher than the average gross income of a woman.

As an aside, I have been told that although there are laws that prevent discrimination, they are routinely breached. For example, at job interviews, women are asked questions (about starting a family, for example) that are illegal. And if the candidate does not answer, or objects, what chance do you think they have of getting the job? Israel has its issues.

As for the importance of petrol, the following might make you believe the government was happy Better Place’s electric car revolution failed:

The report also shows fuel tax revenues tripling between 2000 and 2014 while fuel prices rose just 50%. The report shows that in 2014 alone the Israeli government raked in over NIS 27 billion from tax on gasoline, diesel, cars and vehicle parts.

However strong the economy is, it’s not something that benefits all of society; or at least not sufficiently. Israel has its issues.

We have our challenges, and we need to face them, and tackle them.

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How not to improve the welfare of your citizens

Here’s what Ynet is reporting:

Red Cross in Gaza closes office due to violent protests

The International Committee of the Red Cross said Sunday it is temporarily closing its Gaza office after protesters repeatedly tried to storm it.

Spokeswoman Suhair Zakkout said the office will operate remotely until “local authorities in Gaza provide assurances that our premises, work and staff are respected.” Gaza is ruled by Hamas, an Islamic militant group that seized power there in 2007. Dozens of Gazans have protested daily at the office in recent weeks in solidarity with a Palestinian hunger striker detained by Israel, demanding that the Red Cross help bring about his release. They tried to enter the building forcefully on Sunday, smashing garage windows and causing other damage.

Does anybody doubt that Hamas allowed this to happen? Perhaps they even instigated the assault.

This is yet another dreadful episode that will go unremarked, unnoticed, and unpunished. So what lessons will Hamas an company learn? It’s OK to act in this manner, because there are no consequences, no down side. (You can just imagine what the uproar would be – and all those front page stories of censure and condemnation – if Israel allowed a similar incident. But Hamas are held to a lower standard. In fact, on reflection, Hamas are not held to any standards.

When will somebody out there, wake up and smell the coffee?

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Druze and Jews together

This has got to be one of the best, most positive interfaith stories of recent weeks. It’s about the two communities getting together because of the shared grief at the Har Nof synagogue massacre, and the selfless sacrifice of Zidan Seif, the brave policeman who stopped things from being much worse. Ynet has the story. The context is that the Nissim family are hosting Zidan Seif’s widow:

“But the Nissim family is not the only one hosting this Shabbat, in dozens of other Jerusalemite homes, Druze and Jews are sitting side by side at the Shabbat table. Three buses brought some 160 people from four Druze villages in the Galilee to the Shai Agnon synagogue in Arnona on Saturday afternoon. Sheikhs with elegant mustaches and tarbooshes, elderly women whose heads are covered by thin white shawls, young people, teenage girls, and children, all get off the bus one after the other, shaking the hands of their hosts with embarrassed hesitation. Their hosts were waiting for them outside the synagogue with flags combining the Israeli and Druze flags, made by the meeting’s organizer, Rabbi Yaakov Kermaier.”

It’s a must read, and it is here.

Kol HaKavod, Rabbi Kermaier, and all those involved on all aides. That’s a wonderful initiative, and a great example of what can be achieved.

There are many more, behind the scenes, contacts and relationships, being worked on for the sake of peace, and not conflict. Generally speaking, because they do not fit the simplified message western media wants to send out about Israel, there is no media coverage outside of Israel. All the allegedly bad things that happen are broadcast wide and far. But good things?

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A world of ifs

According to the State Department, Israeli TV reports of John Kerry coming to the Middle East to stick his oar in float a new peace initiative (to be followed by intense pressure on Israel so that a solution is imposed) are untrue. However, perhaps Bibi might consider what would happen if such a state of affairs actually unfolded: Israel would be caught between the proverbial hard place and a rock, and in my opinion, Bibi would be to blame.

My guess is that Bibi does not want to put together a peace initiative, because doing so would fracture the coalition. He loves being in power too much. So, he would prefer it be somebody else’s initiative. But surely by now he realizes that Obama (and probably Clinton, too) are no friends of his; nor do they care about Israeli mainstream thinking on the Palestinians, security, and peace. Verily, they – somewhat ironically – want to play the part of an old style colonial power.

Bibi is to blame because he should be the one promoting a peace plan; getting Obama and his successor and the Europeans lined up behind it, and actively trying to make it work. His failure to be proactive is bad news for Israel.

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Five for Friday

New York magazine rack - December 2015

New York magazine rack – December 2015

Here we are again – thank Heaven – at the weekend, or whatever passes for that in Israel. The Sunday papers, as Susan so sharply put it, come on a Friday. I mean, how confusing is that? I hope you all had a good week, and that the usual selection of links I offer at this time gives you  some entertainment, insight, or pause for thought:

Shabbat Shalom!

 

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When two trains collide

According to this Ynet piece, there is going to be another Gaza war in the coming months.

Israel and Hamas both in a race against time

Analysis: An injection of US cash into Israel’s anti-tunnel technology will speed up its development. But the increased activity on the Israeli side is liable to provoke Hamas into jumping the gun and launching an early surprise attack.

What we know with reasonable certainty is that Hamas have put tremendous resources into their tunneling project. Some unknown number of these tunnels are for attacks into Israeli territory. Hamas needs these tunnels. Why?

During the last Gaza conflict, Hamas (largely) took a beating. More significantly, there was nothing gained by the conflict. The ordinary Palestinian on the Gaza street is worse off, if anything, than before the last war. So, with an electorate – OK, that’s sarcasm – that are becoming more and more restless, Hamas must deliver something, or face the consequences.

What does ‘something’ mean? An attack on Israeli territory that kills Israelis.

What might the consequences be for not delivering something? In theory, Hamas might be replaced by a ruling group that is more willing to talk business and peace, instead of terror and killing. But, it’s more likely Hamas might be replaced by a ruling group that wants more sacrifices from the Palestinian people – more blood – in repeated attempts to kill Israelis. In short, things might get worse for the people of Gaza and for the prospects of peace.

The Ynet article suggests that Hamas’ paranoia that Israel might detect the tunnels – which I do not see as paranoia – would push any timetable up, so that an attack will come sooner rather than later.

Hamas is preparing a surprise attack. If they are led to believe for a moment that Israel has a solution that will bring its tunnels out into the open, it will push them to bring their attack forward. And therein lies the bad news: Two trains are speeding towards each other, and the collision is likely to take place within a few months. The IDF is already making estimates around this possibility.

I’m inclined to believe there will be another Gaza war, and soon, primarily because there does not appear to be any reasonable way of cooling the atmosphere down. I don’t think it matters if Israeli politicians tour the border, or make daft pronouncements. Hamas will attack because it needs to, and it will fashion an excuse out of thin air if necessary.

However, for the sake of the border communities, I hope that the IDF is far better prepared at dealing with these tunnels. Of course, it would be preferable to find the tunnels and destroy them before they are used. In that connection, if there’s a chance of that happening, notwithstanding the suggestion in the article that matters have awaited the release of funds, I wouldn’t expect to read about it beforehand. So, maybe the IDF and the rest of the security infrastructure (and therefore, Israel and its people) are in a better position than is generally felt.

The other loose thread here is Bibi. He has not done enough to try and make peace. He has not done enough to get the world on our side. These two statements are connected. Yes, I hae my doots – as my former countrymen would say – that you can make peace with Hamas. And, yes, I hae my doots about the honesty, integrity, and capability of Abbas. But that should not prevent Bibi (were he a real statesman) of putting together a comprehensive peace proposal (and never mind the coalition) and selling it to Obama. Bibi needs to mend fences with the USA, of course, but being proactive and serious about the peace process could absolutely do that.

At this point, attentive readers will ask how that helps with Hamas. It doesn’t. It isolates them further. It may even increase the chances of them starting something. But, with the best will in the world, that is precisely the point. For all that Bibi has been criticized for not doing enough for peace, the Palestinian leadership should be in the same boat. By pushing forward a real peace proposal, even if it is rejected, that is to Israel’s betterment. We want peace. But if we cannot have peace, let’s be clear about who is responsible. And Heaven help them when the dogs of war are let loose.

Incidentally and finally, I wonder if the bizarre incident of the Hamas ‘tank’ being put on display has any relevance here? Did they panic and feel they had to present something military, while not being ready for an assault? Bizarre.

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It’s just a jump to the left. And then a step to the right.

The political scene in Israel is vibrant, and that’s probably an understatement. The prospects of routine, civil discourse are somewhat reduced by the scale of foreign intervention. Apart from funding – whether from left wing nation states, or right wing casino moguls – there are also pronouncements by prominent people such as the USA Ambassador or the head of the UN (to name just a couple) guaranteed to keep the pot boiling. But, for now, I want to concentrate on the picture on the domestic front.

In this post, I want to point you towards an Israel HaYom piece – The Left’s losing battle – by Dror Eydar, a former kibbutznik I believe, now more on the Bibi side of the political spectrum.

It starts like this:

They don’t stop. Even though the entire right-wing conservative camp unequivocally condemned the controversial “foreign agents” Im Tirtzu post last week (which depicted intellectuals and actors as subversive figures), the onslaught against the Right has continued. It is also worth noting that the Left does not lift a finger when its allies engage in much more provocative conduct.

Im Tirtzu CEO Matan Peleg demonstrated leadership by suspending himself, paving the way for some serious introspection by his organization. The movement must now go beyond that and appoint a council of former activists to advise it on a regular basis. Now that the Right has clearly distanced itself from that post, we must look at the big picture. Im Tirtzu, unlike groups on the other side of the spectrum, has never slandered Israel on the world stage, never joined hands with members of the BDS movement, never tried to boycott artists or performers at certain venues, and never silenced anyone.

So why has this movement been subjected to such an onslaught? Why did this movement, run by young students, have to endure this ordeal after it exposed the political activities of the New Israel Fund and protested the politicization in social sciences departments and forced the media to grapple with the problematic conduct of the left-wing human rights organizations?

Im Tirtzu is just one of the extras in a script written by the Left. Not a calm week has gone by since the Left lost the election in 2015. The shock on the Left after the votes were cast matched the shock following the 1977 upset, which ended almost 30 years of left-wing dominance.

One of his main themes is that the left has not accepted the defeat at the ballot box. Sound familiar?

Although suffering from a less than elegant translation from the original Hebrew, you will well follow his analysis and arguments. I’m not saying I agree with all (or even most) of what he says, but I did find it interesting and thought provoking. So, well worth reading. Do that here.

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Suicide by soldier

You can look at the current Palestinian terror campaign in several ways, in each case (I would argue) concluding that there is nothing to be gained by the Palestinians; it’s all a bloody waste of time and precious life. But Professor Ariel Merari, according to this Times of Israel piece, has a perspective that is new, at least to me. First, the IDF perspective:

Whaat is motivating the terrorists in Israel’s current wave of knife, car-ramming and shooting attacks? What goes through the head of, say, a young Palestinian who enters a supermarket and plunges his knife into the neck of a woman he’s never met?

According to sources within the Israel Defense Forces, aside from the ostensible ideological motive, many of these attacks are a form of “suicide by cop,” or “suicide by soldier.”

“Most of the people have personal problems with their families or they themselves are unbalanced,” a senior IDF officer in the Central Command told The Times of Israel.

Referring to the terrorist who killed two Jews and a Palestinian near the Jewish settlement of Alon Shvut, including 18-year-old Ezra Schwartz, the officer suggested, “He may have owed people money.”

“They all have their personal reasons,” the officer continued. “You have 12- and 13-year-old girls, a 14-year-old boy. There was also that old woman in Hebron who tried to ram her car. Or that woman from Silwan, 40 years old, with four kids, from a wealthy home.”

And the professor:

Ariel Merari, a professor emeritus of psychology at Tel Aviv University, has interviewed and studied would-be Palestinian suicide bombers in previous waves of attacks. He said that while he has not directly interviewed any of the latest attackers, what the IDF officer said is consistent with his findings from a decade and two decades ago, as described in his 2010 book, “Driven to Death: Psychological and Social Aspects of Suicide Terrorism.”

So, it is not based on any present data, but – as it were – past performance.

Suicide is one of the aspects of society which is not a popular topic for discussion. Its effects on the family and friends of the deceased can be shattering. Often there is a sinkhole of despair that has gone unchecked, but to have brought the issue out in to the open would have meant – in the eyes of many – being tarnished with some tag as perhaps mentally ill, depressed, or a lesser person. Wholly wrong, but it happens. Mental health is the Cinderella of the health service in most western countries, so you can imagine the lack of resources in societies focused on terror. And that may mean that despite the security preparations Israel takes, the current terror campaign will be with us for a lot longer. Truly, there would be a peace dividend for everyone.

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Hate by name, hate by nature

Amira Hass‘ surname means hate in German. Somehow that seems appropriate, for the lady appears to have a hateful disposition, albeit towards only one group of people. Hint: it’s not the Palestinians.

David Collier reports on his blog – The ‘Elders of Zion’ reborn at the University of Kent – as follows:

Yesterday, 28/01/2016, I was at the University of Kent to hear a talk by Amira Hass titled ‘Israel and the Palestinians: Colonialism and Prospects for Justice. The event itself was a collaboration between The Centre for Colonial and Postcolonial Studies at Kent University and the Palestine Centre at SOAS, University of London. One of these universities, SOAS, is already a notorious hotbed for extremism, the other, Kent, seems to be desperately trying to catch-up.

Oh dear.

And:

Amira Hass is an Israeli columnist at the Haaretz newspaper. For the last 20 years she has lived in the Palestinian areas, originally in Gaza, but more recently moving to Ramallah in the West Bank. Amira is an example of one of those Israelis nobody should have heard of. Standing for politics that receive no support in Israel, Amira’s opinions reflect none but a handful of oddballs. Every nation has people like Hass hidden in the shadows. What makes her ‘special’, what makes her a marketable commodity, are hundreds of millions of people outside of Israel that simply want Israel gone. The audience of Amira Hass are not peacemakers, but warmongers.

Statements I fully agree with. Hass and her cohorts are not interested in any peaceful solution, or true pro Palestinian moves. Instead, it’s all about damaging Israel and its people. (She’s got form, of course.)

I recommend you go to David’s blog to get the full post, and the measure of the venom. But as a teaser, I offer his summary of one of her dreadful libels:

Beyond Israeli democracy, beyond the will of the voters, beyond the desires of peacemakers like Rabin and Peres, there are invisible Jewish decision makers. They planned from the early 1970’s, never to let the territories go, they manipulated, they connived, they controlled as puppet masters do. A conspiracy of a Jewish cabal that places the profit to be won from the occupation above the will of the electorate and the lives of innocent children. And it is called the ‘Elders of Zion’.

Now, remind me: who does she write for?

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