‘Inequality, not poverty main challenge facing Israeli society’

By
November 30, 2016 04:47

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz addressed the disparities in transportation between the Center and the periphery explaining the lack of transportation services in the periphery.

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TRANSPORTATION MINISTER Israel Katz (center) attends the Sderot Conference for Society at Sapir Coll

TRANSPORTATION MINISTER Israel Katz (center) attends the Sderot Conference for Society at Sapir College yesterday, along with Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On and Mayor Alon Davidi.. (photo credit: FACEBOOK)

Inequality and not poverty is the main challenge facing Israeli society today, Dr. Michael Sarel, head of the Kohelet Economic Forum said Tuesday.

He made these remarks at a panel on inequality at the annual Sderot Conference for Society at Sapir College, which tackles the country’s most pressing social issues.

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Sarel said that contrary to the media discourse, poverty rates in the country have been in decline the past four years and that the “general public is not receiving the correct data regarding poverty.” Rather, he said the main focus should be on tackling inequality.

Dr. Eldad Shidelovsky from the Finance Ministry said on the same panel that eradicating child poverty should still remain at the forefront of the national agenda, since poverty in childhood often cycles into adulthood.

He said the government has yet to implement the recommendations on combating child poverty, which was presented by the Committee to Fight Poverty in June 2014.

Prof. Daniel Gottlieb, VP of planning at the National Insurance Institute noted that the depth of poverty, meaning the gap from the poverty line, has increased in recent years, only enhancing the gaps and inequality in society.

“We must do something to bring these indices to a normal level, but as long as there is very high child poverty, it will not change,” he said.

A long list of MKs from across the political spectrum along with NGO heads also spoke at the conference and addressed inequality across all aspects of society.

Construction Minister Yoav Galant spoke to a crowd of students on one of the most glaring problems facing society: the housing crisis.

“Until the formation of the new government, housing prices doubled in the past 10 years,” he said.

Galant said there were two main reasons for this phenomenon.

The first is because the state increased the value of the land by increasing prices each time it sold off plots available for building.

“The second reason, which is most serious, is that when the land prices went up, a group of contractors took advantage of the situation. This group bought the lands but did not build. They decided that if they continue to sell the land after a few years they would continue receiving more money without having to do anything,” he said.

These two reasons were mainly responsible for the increase in land prices, which in turn led to the housing crisis, Galant said.

Though he added the current administration had put an end to both practices in an attempt to resolve the crisis.

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz addressed the disparities in transportation between the Center and the periphery explaining the lack of transportation services in the periphery.

He said why not “stretch Israeli power, one hour to the South and one hour to the North with infrastructure whose purpose is to connect the rail network to the periphery.

“Public transportation does not stand at the head of priorities,” he said. “Even the light rail in Tel Aviv was not built until now.”

With regards to geographical inequality, many speakers took the opportunity to address an audience in Sderot to discuss the issue of the development of the periphery.

Dani Atar, head of Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund, said the state is “not really doing anything to change the situation in the periphery, in the Galilee and the Negev.”

“The only way to resolve this [issue] is if the government will make a decision detailing what to do and what it needs from us to succeed,” he said.

“The vision of Israel should be 500,000 residents in the Galilee and one million new citizens in the Negev.”

Atar addressed Galant and Katz’s earlier comments and said that “when we build hundreds of thousands of units in the Center of the country, we are telling our children that there is nothing for them in the periphery.

“We can plan transportation to the periphery to connect with the rest of the country,” he said.

Additional speakers at the conference included MK Zehava Gal-On, Joint List head Ayman Odeh, MK Shelly Yacimovich, and US Ambassador Daniel Shapiro.


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