Insanity reigns

Why are we paying countries to move their embassies to Jerusalem?

July 31, 2019 22:31
3 minute read.
US SECRETARY OF State Mike Pompeo and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman stand next to the dedic

US SECRETARY OF State Mike Pompeo and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman stand next to the dedication plaque at the US Embassy in Jerusalem in March. (photo credit: JIM YOUNG/REUTERS)

An article in The Jerusalem Post on May 1 reported that an estimated 200,000 elderly Holocaust survivors are living in Israel today, a quarter of them in poverty. Some 50,000 survivors in Israel are living a low quality of life, according to Aviv for Holocaust Survivors, an organization that works to inform survivors about their rights and help them navigate the bureaucratic process, all free of charge.

A May 24 article in Haaretz reported that the Foreign Ministry headquarters in Jerusalem was shut, as striking ministry workers blocked all entrances and prevented anyone from entering. The workers declared a general strike, closing all Foreign Ministry offices and missions around the world. The workers are protesting the employment conditions of Israeli diplomats and the Finance Ministry’s decision to cut their salaries over the renewed sanctions.

A report issued at the end of 2018 by the National Insurance Institute (Bituah Leumi) indicated that 1,780,500 Israelis – including 466,400 families and 814,800 children, some 21.2% of the population – are living below the poverty line. The report was based on data gathered by the Central Bureau of Statistics for 2017, the most recent year for which comprehensive information was 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.

According to a story on YNet in January 2019, 51% of senior citizens sponsored by the Latet organization were not able to afford to heat their homes this past winter, and stayed indoors trying to keep themselves warm. An alarmingly high number of Israeli senior citizens live below the poverty line. As the days shorten and temperatures drop, the elderly face a particularly difficult time. Since pensions and welfare benefits do not cover basic needs, Israeli senior citizens stay home in winter, wrapped in blankets and clad in warm winter clothes.

Yet in the face of these social welfare shortages (and this is just a sampling), Foreign Affairs Minister Israel Katz is planning to present a monetary incentive plan this week to the government to allocate NIS 50 million (about US $14.3 million) to encourage countries to locate their embassies in Jerusalem. The money will be earmarked for financing expenses related to the establishment or transfer of the embassies or ambassador’s residences, locating and allocating suitable land in Jerusalem and providing additional assistance once in the city, according to a story in Israel Hayom.

So, 1) we let Holocaust survivors live in poverty; 2) we can’t afford to pay foreign ministry workers a decent wage; 3) we don’t have the money to help the elderly heat their homes in winter; and 4) we allow almost a quarter of the population to live in poverty. Yet we have NIS 50 million to assist foreign governments to move their embassies to Jerusalem. Seriously? Is this responsible government? Or are we living in that imaginary village of Chelm that was populated by fools, according to the folk tales of Eastern Europe?

By the dictionary definition, Israel would be insane to bear this cost. Insanity is defined as madness, extreme foolishness and/or irrationality. Spending this kind of money when there are so many more pressing social needs for which the government claims it does not have the funds is, for want of a better term, simply insane. Let’s hope that someone with in government with a brain will say NO!

The writer is a 35-year resident of Jerusalem, president of the Jerusalem-based business development consulting firm Atid EDI Ltd, and a former national president of the Association of Americans & Canadians in Israel.

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