A total of 1,780,500 Israelis – including 466,400 families and 814,800 children, some 21.2% of the population – are living below the poverty line, according to the annual report of the National Insurance Institute (Bituach Leumi) released Monday. The report is based on data gathered by the Central Bureau of Statistics for 2017, the most recent year for which comprehensive information is available.While the overall poverty rate increased from 18.5% in 2016, the proportion of families living in poverty decreased from 28.8% in 2016 to 28.4% in 2017.The proportion of children living in poverty decreased from 31% in 2016 to 29.6% in 2017. However, among the elderly, the poverty rate increased from 20.8% in 2016 to 21.8% in 2017.The poverty rate among immigrants (those who made aliyah since 1990) increased from 17.0% in 2016 to 18.4% in 2017.The poverty rate for Arab families increased to 47.1% in 2017 from 49.2% in 2016, while the poverty rate among ultra-Orthodox families decreased from 45.1% in 2016 to 43.1% in 2017.Among those who are unemployed, the poverty rate has increased from 69% in 2016 to 76% in 2017. Israel has the highest rate of poverty of any OECD country, according to the report. The GINI index of inequality showed a slight improvement, but Israel remains among those countries with the highest level of inequality.“The poverty report is disgraceful in so many ways,” said Eli Cohen, CEO of poverty assistance organization Pitchon Lev. “It insults the poor because it shows them they are poor, yet suggests no plan to rescue them from poverty. It insults Israelis, because the involvement and aspirations of the civil society in assisting the poor in opposition to the obliviousness from the establishment is clearly degrading.“Even the public’s intelligence is disrespected, because showing us an improvement rate of half a percentage and regarding it as an achievement is like telling us we are shortsighted,” Cohen continued. “Don’t show us numbers, speak of people, and mostly of actions. We’re on the verge of new parliamentary elections, and not a single candidate has anything to show for in terms of poverty. I call upon the party leaders, old and new alike, to work on a plan, applicable and measurable to break the cycle of poverty.”Orly Levy-Abecasis, leader of the Gesher party, said in a statement, “The annual poverty report is a mark of Cain to a government which is too busy arguing over a futile Left or Right argument rather than finding a solution to the hungry children.”MK Amir Peretz (Zionist Union) castigated the government in the wake of the report, saying, “814,000 children in Israel living in poverty is a figure that should shake the pillars of the world. When Netanyahu talks about a flourishing economy, he is apparently referring to unfettered capitalism and an economy that does not serve the society.“Despite the high employment rates in the market, more than one million Israelis are not able to make ends meet,” Peretz continued. “The ‘invisible hand’ will not solve this, and nor will a government of the economic right-wing. The State of Israel needs a different government with a different policy that knows how to address the socioeconomic inequalities that are a real menace on our future.”Avi Nissenkorn, chairman of the Histadrut labor federation, said of the report, “The results of the poverty report are harsh yet unsurprising. A result of the government neglecting the weaker part of society – that is the real and just war of Israel. The positive change, although small, is as a result of actions made by the Histadrut, raising the minimum wage for example. The Histadrut will continue its steps to changing our future.”MK Itzik Shmuli (Zionist Union) said of the report, “Netanyahu speaks of ‘a victorious economy’ and Israel has once again maintained the dubious title of poverty champion of the West.” He said the current government managed to achieve the impossible – deepen the national deficit and barely improve the social status.“It’s a shame that all the achievements amount to barely a tenth of a percentage improvement in poverty among families, and the fact that the poverty rates among children and the elderly are still immense is a mark of disgrace to the government and a proof that it completely disengaged itself from the legacy [former prime minister Menachem] Begin and many others left behind,” Shmuli said.