Afternoon Tea in Jerusalem Blog

Life in Israel

Israeli commercial life and society

In addition to my work as a business coach, one of my interests is blogging about life in Israel. This is a country full of contrasts – over eight million citizens living in an area the size of Wales. You can see snow and the lowest place on the globe in the same day. Although surrounded by geopolitical extremes, Israel has achieved a decade of high economic growth. My work brings me in contact with an array of new companies, exciting technologies and dynamic characters. Sitting back with a relaxing cup of strong tea (with milk), you realise just how much there is to appreciate in the Holyland. Large or small operations, private sector or non profit, my clients provide experiences from which others can learn and benefit.

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The (hidden and obscene) costs of a general election in Israel

To cut a long story very short, Israel’s Prime Minister called for a general election in the winter of last year. It was held in April 2019, and his coalition partners won a majority. However, Mr Netanyahu has been unable to secure agreement amongst his buddies, and so is going back to the electorate…… on 17th September 2019.

As one person asked: If it takes the UK with tens of millions of voters and 650 constituencies only three weeks to prepare for an election, why on earth does it require the ‘start-up nation’ with four million voters five months? No answer. But just think how much extra money can be wasted in PR campaigns over that period, …..mostly funded by the taxpayer!

It is estimated that the direct cost of the election is around US$130 million. That makes for disappointing reading at a time when the country does not have a Minister of Finance and when the budget deficit has been lurching out of control for the past six months. The problem is that no real fix is in site before the winter, which means that the remedy will eventually be even more painful…..not that the present government will admit that to an electorate.

But there are other hidden costs.

After the elections in April, the 120 members of the Israeli Parliament, the Kenesset, were sworn in.

By the time the next election rolls around on September 17, Knesset Member Osnat Mark of the ruling Likud Party will have served in the Knesset for 10 months without performing any of the duties of a lawmaker. Nevertheless, she will receive a monthly salary of 43,000 shekels ($11,850), as well as a budget for aides and advisers.

Nice work if you can get it.

Moving on, let us recall why that first election was called earlier than required by law. The consensus in the press was that Mr. Netanyahu was seeking to delay the process of the four legal investigations against him. And by all accounts the main subject of discussions when trying to form a new government just now – a process which failed and resulted in those additional elections – was how to create a law that would weaken the prosecution’s cases against Netanyahu.

Add up the value of the charges against Netanyahu, and we are talking about billions of shekels.

Finally, let me turn my attention to the ultra-orthodox community, whose political parties see themselves as natural coalition partners of Netanyahu. They currently constitute about 16.5% of the populace, a figure expected to rise to 20% over the next decade.

However, 98% of 18 year olds from the community graduate without a proper education. Thus, when they do eventually enter the workforce, they are underqualified.

Actually, I should state “if” they work, because nearly 50% of ultra-religious men between the ages of 25 and 64 are estimated not to be a part of the working population. In order words, when Netanyahu agrees to the demands of his rabbinical partners, he is encouraging a form of enforced poverty.

Statistics indicate that 53% of the ultra orthodox live under the poverty line, as opposed to 9% for the rest of the population.

What the heck? Unemployment is at an all time low. The economy continues to grow in real terms. Loads of top musicians are turning up to play open air concerts this summer. So why should we care about a few squandered billions of dollars, if the Israeli government does not want us to think about them?



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