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The three great challenges of this generation
By YAIR SHAMIR
21/01/2013
We can vote for smaller parties which will further disintegrate our political system or we can support Likud-Yisrael Beytenu.
 
On the eve of the 2009 elections, let’s imagine someone had promised that in the next few years, the government would significantly lower unemployment and create 350,000 new jobs, increase the minimum wage and public sector pay, implement free education from the age of three, provide extra tax breaks for working families, double the grant for soldiers finishing their service, raise Israel’s educational levels to among the highest in the world, connect the country through a massive investment in new roads and highspeed trains, and much more.

The public reaction would correctly have been that this was either madness or pure electioneering.

However, on the eve of the 2013 elections, the present government led by Likud and Yisrael Beytenu has very real achievements, including those above, and has kept promises it was not even able to make openly four years ago.

During an international recession, which has brought many larger and more established economies to their knees, the Israeli economy is, against all odds and expectation, growing. This is attested to by both the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the World Trade Organization (WTO).

With these and many other achievements in mind, and our joint list, we have the confidence to attempt to make the changes that are absolutely essential for the political and economic endurance of the State of Israel.

DURING THE early years of the state, our leaders introduced a political and social system that was perhaps essential for our newly reestablished state to meet its early challenges. However, much of this system has outlived its usefulness and is leading us toward division and paralysis.

Our first prime minister, David Ben- Gurion, allowed a few hundred yeshiva students to avoid army service in a deal which was meant to avert divisions during the early years of the state. However, this academic year the majority of the children entering the first grade will not serve or contribute to their country, either in military or civilian service, when they finish high school.

This is not merely a matter of equality; it is also about the future of our country. If we look back to the early years of the state, the vast majority served the country and contributed to our society. A situation has been allowed to fester for decades which has changed these proportions dramatically.

In only a few short years the number of those who serve will become a minority; the national burden will be laid on a shrinking number of Israelis.

This will become an untenable situation and one which we can not afford to leave to our children or grandchildren.

In addition, we need to increase participation in the workforce and ensure that the core curriculum is included in every school in Israel, particularly the ultra-Orthodox education system.

Furthermore, the current criteria for housing is based on benchmarks created by Shas, which holds the Housing Ministry, and is weighted significantly towards those who contribute less rather than those who serve the country, work and pay taxes.

We need to redress this situation before it becomes impossible to implement demographically. Israelis should no longer live by different rules depending on their background. All Israelis should be treated equally where benefits are legally made commensurate to contribution.

Currently, the Arab sector in Israel pays only hundreds of millions of shekels in taxes but receives well over 10 billion shekels from the national budget. The numbers are not so markedly different in the ultra-Orthodox sector. This is obviously economically unsustainable.

This is not a missive against any particular group of Israeli citizens; however, we do need to make a clear division in Israeli society. Not on religious, communal or ethnic lines, but the state needs to make a distinction between those who contribute to society and those who do not.

The state has an obligation to its people, and the people have an obligation to their state and society. This is the basis of citizenship and we need to incentivize those who currently do not contribute and are stuck in a cycle of poverty.

JUST AS importantly in need of an overhaul is our political system, which was introduced to provide maximum representation during the early years of the state. However, the same system now ensures that we lack good governance, representation and a true separation of powers necessary to provide checks and balances.

During the past 15 years, we have had 11 transportation ministers, 10 housing and construction ministers and most remarkably, 14 finance ministers. This revolving door effect is a direct result of our flawed system which does not allow for long-term strategic planning in any of these vital areas.

The situation will only become far worse as more parties enter the political system, resulting in a more dispersed and splintered system which will in turn lead to political paralysis at precisely the time when we face so many diplomatic, security and economic challenges. The prime minister will be more preoccupied with managing his or her coalition instead of governing the country.

THE EXCEPTION to this rule has been the current government, which lasted longer than any in Israel’s history since the government led by Golda Meir.

This stability and governability led to the historic merged list of Likud with Yisrael Beytenu. The joint list is a message to the voter that we can make the necessary changes if we put aside our differences and work toward the national interests. Yisrael Beytenu, in particular, realized that these three issues, which have been long-standing goals of the party, are unobtainable in a party of 15 seats.

Nevertheless, these are the three great challenges of our generation and issues that we can not afford to leave to our children, when it will be too late.

In the lead up to the 1977 elections, the National Camp placed their differences aside to create the Likud, which historically won the elections and moved the country beyond a socialistinspired bloated bureaucracy. This ended in 1992, when my father, Yitzhak Shamir, was unseated because of smaller parties in our camp, which led to Labor’s return to power.

The Israeli electorate has been given a clear choice. We can vote for smaller parties which will further disintegrate our political system or we can support Likud-Yisrael Beytenu, make these historic, necessary changes and move toward a brighter, unified and equitable future for all.

This is why I entered politics and I hope you will join us and put Machal in the ballot boxes.

The author is number four on the joint Likud-Yisrael Beytenu list for the elections to the 19th Knesset.
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