Lapid at Finance C'tee meeting 370.
(photo credit: Knesset)
There may be terrorist rockets, missiles aimed at Israel, and an Iranian nuclear
program that just won’t quit, but the Jewish state does not face any existential
threats, Finance Minister Yair Lapid said Tuesday.
Speaking to mayors at
a convention for local authorities in Tel Aviv, Lapid listed security as among
the upsides for the Israeli economy. Once the budget problems are dealt with,
which he said would be done by 2014, Israel’s reasons for optimism include its
considerable projected economic growth, natural gas finds, and “the fact that
from a security perspective, there are no existential threats against the state
of Israel today.
“The threat from missiles, some of them more precise and
dangerous than those we’ve known in the past, is not small, but there is no army
on our borders threatening the fact of our existence,” he said.
addition to those advantages, he said, Israel’s ability to adapt to new
challenges would be crucial to its success in facing its national challenges,
which he defined as keeping unemployment low, making housing affordable, and
Unemployment is artificially low because it does not
take into consideration entire sectors – specifically ultra-Orthodox men and
Arab women – that do not participate in the labor force, a problem he said he
was working to rectify alongside the Economy and Trade Ministry.
train people to work in hi-tech and manufacturing, and will support local
initiatives and small businesses, strengthen regional industrial zones in the
North and South, and give benefits to any international company that will
establish development centers and factories here that will create jobs that put
us on the world’s technological and innovative forefront.”
Such steps, he
promised, would move people out of the “welfare” category and into the
The Knesset on Monday passed a first reading of a
law to support small and medium enterprises.
The state had to fix the
problems it had created with the country’s housing market, which Lapid called
“the No. 1 problem of every young couple in Israel” and a “strategic threat” for
the next generation. The housing cabinet, which approved new standards Sunday
that discontinued policies heavily favoring the ultra-Orthodox, was the address
for such issues, he said.
“The national housing program talks of building
150,000 apartments for rent.
The government housing program running
alongside it talks about marketing tens of thousands of lots for building,” he
“If you want the best of your youth to stay with you and not escape
to Tel Aviv or New York,” he told the room of mayors, “housing is the
To address the final challenge, education, Lapid said simply
that the Education Ministry would soon expand upon a series of reforms, from
reducing matriculation exams to reviving vocational schools.
as Lapid spoke, Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg – who chairs the Planning and Budgeting
Committee of the Council for Higher Education – said at a forum on education
that Israel faces a serious brain drain problem.
“If the State of Israel
has sinned, the sin is that it allows its greatest minds to leave 25 percent of
Israeli scientists work abroad,” he said at the Dan and Bradstreet forum for
institutions of higher education.
“That is a world record, double that of
Canada, which is ranked behind us. Even if we can get some of them, the majority
will never return.”
Better educating the haredi and Arab work forces
would be paramount to Israel’s future economic success, he added.