Changing the discourse
A visual primer for Israel’s 2019 elections
will soon be heading for the polls.
Knowing how to separate the wheat from the chaff in an environment that
relentlessly bombards us with data is vital.
The visual primer below drills under the often superficial discourse to
provide a vivid picture on Israel’s primary long-term socioeconomic challenges. It is a primer showing where we were in past,
where we are today, and where we are headed – a primer that should interest and
unite all who care deeply about the future of Israel, whether they are
right-wing or left-wing, religious or secular, Jewish or Arab.
nearly all of the serious election-related attention in Israel tends to focus
on national security issues, that fundamental concept has come to encompass far
more than most are aware of. The past
several years have been relatively good for Israel from an economic perspective,
like an abundant oasis – but one that is currently situated on a very
problematic, and remarkably steady, highway toward the abyss. Contrary to conventional wisdom, ours is not
a predetermined path etched in stone. We
have a say, and a responsibility, in determining the direction that Israel is
headed, but that window won’t remain open forever.
way we were
the 1970s, Israel changed its national priorities in some of the more basic
socioeconomic realms – which led to quintessential changes in its primary
long-term socioeconomic trajectories.
The young Israel was poor, inundated by new immigrants with just the
clothes on their backs. It went through
a period of food rationing and wars of existence. But despite Israel’s meager resources, the
founding generation found the wherewithal to build not only towns and roads but
also – for example – hospitals and universities.
the mid-seventies, hospitals were built from Safed to Eilat, with the number of
hospital beds matching the population’s phenomenal growth rate. By the mid-seventies, seven research
universities had been built and the number of academic researchers in Israel,
per capita, approached American levels.
the health system
number of hospital beds per capita has been in a free fall since the mid-seventies.
Israeli hospitals today have the highest occupancy rates in the OECD.
ongoing neglect of the health system has exacted a price. The dilution of resources and manpower has
not only led to long lines, congestion, suffering and violence by
patients. Over the past two decades, the
share of Israelis dying from infectious and parasitic diseases has doubled.
leap in the number of Israeli deaths per capita from infectious and parasitic
diseases places Israel alone at the top of the OECD countries, with 73% more
deaths per capita than the number two country, the United States. The annual number of deaths from infectious
and parasitic diseases is a double-digit multiple of the number of Israelis
killed each year in traffic accidents.
the transportation infrastructure
founding generation brought the congestion on the country’s roads to parity
with the average for small European countries in the early 1970s. Since then, Israeli road congestion has risen
to nearly three times the congestion there – and this, despite having 40% less
vehicles per capita in Israel. It is
simply a situation in which there are no adequate substitutes for travel in private
vehicles. The results are extreme
congestion and endless traffic bottlenecks.
the education system
achievements of Israeli children in core curriculum subjects are at the bottom
of the developed world – and this is without even taking into account the
ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) pupils, who do not study the core subjects and do not
participate in the international exams.
The achievements of Arab-Israeli children are beneath those of Third
World countries – in fact, below the majority of predominantly Muslim
graph provides a peek at the future since the children from all of the various
countries will have to compete with one another in the global marketplace. This is how the various countries are
preparing their children for that eventuality.
the cutting edge
the mid-seventies, Israel’s population has more than doubled. It is considerably wealthier than the
founding generation (GDP per capita has also more than doubled since the
1970s). But the country’s national
priorities changed. Israel has not built
another Technion, or Hebrew University, or another Tel-Aviv University. The number of research university faculty per
capita today is 60% lower than it was in the much poorer Israel of the 1970s.
of the neglect
one of the developed world’s most under-developed transportation
infra-structures and a level of education at the bottom of the developed world,
it should come as no surprise that Israel’s labor productivity is below that of
most developed countries. Labor
productivity is a key determinant of income: if the average amount produced in
an hour by an Israeli is low, then the average hourly wage that the person
receives will also be low.
productivity in Israel is not just low.
It has been falling further and further behind – in relative terms – to
the labor productivity of the world’s leading economies. Since the mid-seventies, the gap between the
G7 countries and Israel has risen more than three-fold. The trajectory of the past four decades will
not be sustainable four decades from today – with all of the implications that
this has on Israel’s future.
larger the gap between what educated and skilled Israelis can earn abroad and
what they receive in Israel, the smaller the likelihood that Israeli society
will be able to keep them at home. With
time, it will become increasingly easier – especially for educated and skilled
Israelis – to decide between leaving the country or remaining and earning below
their potential. Such a decision will
become easier still when they’ll take into account that fewer and fewer
shoulders will have to carry a larger and larger burden – from taxes to
today, the income of half the country’s population is so low that they do not even
reach the bottom rung of the income tax ladder and pay no income tax
whatsoever. 92% of all income tax
revenue comes from just 20% of the population – an increase from 83% in the
this is the current situation, what will happen when today’s first graders
reach working age? How many will possess
the tools to work in a modern economy, and how many will need assistance to
survive? When the national leadership
fails to understand or display an interest in root treatment that will require
a change in direction, how many of the young and educated will remain in Israel
to bear a steadily rising tax burden resulting from an increasing number of
needy alongside a decreasing number of tax payers?
future – if Israel does not wake up in time
time to change the public discourse taking place in Israel and to rethink
outdated paradigms. National security is
not just planes and tanks. It is also
the ability to maintain a First World defensive capability.
half of Israel’s children today receive a Third World education, and they
belong to the fastest growing parts of the population. A Third World education will lead to a Third
World economy. But a Third World economy
cannot support a First World army – with all of the implications that this has
on Israel’s future ability to survive in the world’s most violent region.
has reached one of the most decisive crossroads in its history. The national priorities that will be decided
in the coming years, before the country eclipses the demographic-democratic
point of no-return, will determine if Israel will be or will not be in future