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Open letter to PM Netanyahu from US immigrant
By DAN CHEIFETZ
01/14/2013
Yes, Mr. Netanyahu, I am a self-employed dentist. I have been financially hurt by this situation your government has created, to the point I will soon lose my clinic.
 
Mr. Prime Minister, I have something you want. My vote. To me, my vote is a precious thing, and I will not part with it impulsively or recklessly.

Usually I decide quite easily whom to vote for, yet this time, it is much more difficult.

I have Right-of-Center security views, which obviously eliminates many choices.

I also strongly believe in voting for large parties, as I believe that it is vital for government stability. I am also a so-called “modern orthodox” Jew. and in past elections my choice thus was between the large party in the block, the Likud, and the party that most closely fit my views on the Jewishness of the state, the NRP, or its successors.

In the past, the belief in the large party won out, and I always voted Likud. In addition to concerns about party size, my reasons had to do with quality of government and broadness of party platforms.

The NRP and its successors have emphasized security and Judea and Samaria, and have ignored social and economic issues.

I want a government that is primarily concerned with good government, in addition to the usual security issues.

The Likud is supposed to be a liberal party economically, believing in free competition and minimal government interference in economic issues. In the past, you, Mr. Netanyahu, in your previous positions as prime minister and finance minister, made great strides in leading Israel away from it’s Socialist past and towards an open economy.

However in the past four years, amid a world financial crisis – where prudent government spending is considered so important – can you say you have kept this philosophy? In a time of world financial uncertainty, where Israel’s financial growth has shrunk and tax revenues have fallen significantly short of forecasts, your government has increased government spending on social issues.

I can give two examples where you have done this: Free nursery schools and free dentistry for children, for all Israeli residents.

We all know that Israel has a serious poverty issue, and that those two reforms have helped the poor.

I commend the Education Ministry for realizing that this reform would have a deleterious effect on the owners of private nursery schools.

During the same week that the government decision was made, the Education Ministry placed announcements in all of the Friday newspapers informing the nursery-school owners what they needed to do to be included in the government system.

Yet, I question whether it is necessary for public funds to finance this across the board, or whether it would have been more fiscally prudent to limit the help to those who truly need it, especially with current budgetary concerns.

LET’S LOOK at the government program that provides free dentistry for children, currently up to age 12. This program is the pet project of Deputy Health Minister Yaacov Litzman of United Torah Judaism.

The greatest beneficiaries of this program are haredi and Arab children, who make up the majority of this age group in the general population. They are also the most poverty-stricken populations in Israeli society.

Here again, I question the necessity of public funds being used across the board.

In addition, here unfortunately, I have nothing positive to say about the Ministry responsible, the Health Ministry. First we must remember, that officially, you, Mr. Netanyahu, are the Health Minister.

Two-and-a-half years ago, free dentistry was offered to all Israeli residents under the age of eight. The age of coverage has since been raised to 12.

This treatment was only made available via the kupot cholim. The self-employed dentists – some 85 percent of all the dentists in the country – were excluded from the program.

The government, under your leadership, made a decision to allow for the establishment of a Dental Health Fund, which would be the mechanism that would allow those self-employed dentists, who so wished, to work with the program. The Health Ministry never established this fund.

For two-and-a-half years, self-employed dentists have been prevented from treating their patients. To put it bluntly, the Health Ministry has taken away work from private dentists and given it to the kupot cholim. In my opinion, this is a major scandal. In addition, dentists working at kupot cholim clinics are grossly underpaid. Dentists treating children receive NIS 30 a filling, and are not paid for exams at all.

Yes, Mr. Netanyahu, I am a self-employed dentist. I have been financially hurt by this situation your government has created, to the point I will soon lose my clinic.

At first, I solely blamed the Health Ministry and Rabbi Yaakov Litzman for this, but after over a year of letter writing and telephone calls, to all of the different sectors of government, I must put some of the blame on you. You were unaware for two years of the unfair discrimination against private dentists. Remember, you are the health minister.

I wrote you letters you did not read. I contacted your office, which did not respond. In June 2012 when you did find out, being told by Minister of Sports and Culture Limor Livnat at a cabinet meeting, you responded angrily and transferred the responsibility to your Chief of Staff Harel Locker. My letters to him and his office have been ignored. You gave him a month to take care of it, and seven months have passed, with no result.

Is this indicative of a fair and quality government? There has been a lot of criticism of the functioning of the Health Ministry in the press in the past few years. The decision to give the responsibility of such an important office – to a sectoral party with obvious bias to its own electorate – was in my opinion a serious mistake.

United Torah Judaism is perhaps the most significant cause of poverty in Israel, along with Shas.

Do you intend, Mr. Netanyahu, to give these parties similar responsibilities in your next government? So you see, Mr. Netanyahu, I have a difficult decision ahead of me.

The writer is an American-trained dentist with a practice in Modi’in and Modi’in Illit.
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