Study suggests unity government needed for Israel's socioeconomic growth

The rise in representation has been in the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) bloc.

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April 30, 2019 19:54
3 minute read.
Benny Gantz and Benjamin Netanyahu at swearing in of 21st Knesset

Benny Gantz and Benjamin Netanyahu at swearing in of 21st Knesset. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

 
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The Right has not grown over recent decades as much as most people think - or even at all, according to a new study released Wednesday by the Shoresh Institution.

The institution for socioeconomic research found that in 1977, the Right took a leap while the Center-Left dropped in representation. However, the right-wing/religious party bloc has been falling steadily since then, with the exception of the last two elections.

The rise has been in the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) bloc.

 

“When you look at the haredi bloc – at how many total votes it received – their share has risen more than three-fold since the 1970s,” explained Shoresh president Dan Ben-David in an interview with The Jerusalem Post. “They have become the kingmakers.”

The haredim were not in the government until 1977. Haredi parties have been in the government for 39 of the 42 years that have elapsed since – Agudath Israel since 1977 and Shas since 1984.

According to Ben-David, this shift has led to a swing in the country’s priorities and, tied to other national decisions, has negatively impacted Israel’s socioeconomic situation and the quality of life for most Israelis.

In his report, Ben-David shows that, for example, the number of hospital beds per capita, which had been relatively steady from 1948 through 1977, has since fallen by 45%.

Additionally, the number of university research faculty has fallen; their number per capita, in what is a much larger and wealthier Israel in 2019, is 60% below the 1973 peak.

Israeli roads are increasingly congested due to lack of infrastructure, and Israeli schools have become among the worst in the developed world.

“These are things that have been neglected for the last 40 years,” said Ben-David.

He explained that the correlation between the change in political representation and these challenges is due to less or a lack of funds and in how they were spent. For example, Israel became larger, and a lot of money was spent in areas that the country has since returned, such as Sinai or Gaza.

Furthermore, Israel spent a lot of money on haredim.

“You can see this directly in how the number of children per family rose,” Ben-David said. “It rose by a full child in the 1980s and another half of a child in the 1990s in the haredi community. When welfare payments were cut during the Second Intifada, the fertility rate simultaneously dropped. It has been picking up again over the past decade, as payments have once again risen.”

Ben-David also noted that in the 1970s, some 70% of haredim were employed in Israel. Today, that number has dropped to 40%.

The takeaway?

Ben-David suggests that the study should help present the case for a unity government.

The two largest parties – Likud and Blue and White – control the majority of Knesset members with 70 out of 120. “They don’t need to make deals with small, strange parties,” said Ben-David, noting that he believes that when it comes to domestic issues, “I don’t see much difference between these parties.”

“The outcome of the April elections this year," he continued, "serves as both an omen - if Israel’s left- and right-wing do not come together - and a ray of hope if such collaboration might nonetheless occur.

“We have a limited window of opportunity to get our act together,” said Ben-David. “We need to get our act together.”

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