November 11: Defining poverty

Since we are now in OECD and our statistics are compared to other countries in this key group, we should be clear as to how we determine who is living in poverty.

November 10, 2010 23:38

letters 88. (photo credit: )

Defining poverty

Sir, – The article on the front page of your November 9 issue, “123,500 dipped below poverty line in ’09” indicates a serious situation that requires every effort to resolve.

Since we are now in the OECD and our statistics are compared to the other countries in this key group, we should be clear as to how we determine who is living in poverty. In most other countries, a calculation is made of the amount of income required for a family to have a minimum standard of living. However, Israel uses a formula that sets one-half of the average income as the poverty line, which means that as overall income rises, the poverty line rises and does not necessarily result in a figure that represents true hardship.

Allow me to make two points.

First, the poverty line in Israel is higher than the minimum wage, so anyone working at minimum wage is automatically living in poverty. Also, as pointed out in the article, there is opposition to increasing the minimum wage.

Second, if the average income increases, a person whose income remains the same may suddenly find himself below the poverty line.

I questioned Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer about this following a lecture he gave, and he agreed that the system needed to be corrected. But that was three years ago.

The critical point is that Israel, compared to many other countries, has large segments of the population who are voluntarily not working – even though many of them have the capabilities to be employed – and these people are included in the poverty figures. In reality, many have sources of sustenance but have no or little reported income. Removing them from the poverty calculation would alter the numbers substantially.

What is important is that we have meaningful statistics so we can concentrate on alleviating the cases of true poverty, including those who are often unable to help themselves: the elderly, the ill, people with disabilities and those who, despite sincere efforts, are unable to find employment.


Sir, – May I humbly suggest to our leaders that they consider imposing a 10-15 percent poverty tax on all those fortunate enough to be earning NIS 15,000 or more per month, to go into a special poverty fund for distribution to the tens of thousands like myself who live below the poverty line or uncomfortably close.

Not only will this tax not harm those affected, it will hopefully inspire them with the thought that they are putting into practice the profound religious teaching that all Israel are brothers and responsible for one another.

It is worth noting, too, that the Hebrew term for this responsibility is arevim, and the outcome in this case could mean that numerous Israeli families and children need not go hungry, which in Hebrew is re’evim.


Tell us what’s wrong

Sir, – George Bush writes in his memoir that PA President Mahmoud Abbas told him in 2007 that he was willing to support the peace plan of former prime minister Ehud Olmert (“Abbas was ready to back deal with Olmert, Bush memoir reveals,” November 9). However, in an interview with the Washington Post just last year, Abbas, while acknowledging the far-reaching compromise that Olmert offered (including 97 percent of the West Bank), claimed there were still wide gaps between them.

Until Abbas can further articulate these gaps, the latest peace talks will prove futile.

New York

Sorry and disappointed

Sir, – I am writing in reference to your November 9 front-page story “US ‘disappointed’ by plans for 1,345 east J’lem homes.”

First Israel announces a housing expansion in east Jerusalem when US Vice President Biden is there.

And now, again, when Prime Minister Netanyahu is here in the US.

I used to think Israel was based on neighborliness and normalcy.

Imagine if it had never put half a million settlers over the Green Line – we could have rather easily coasted to peace. Oslo or the Arab League peace plan would have worked – instantly, without further ado.

Does Israel want peace? I wonder, since building seems to trump it.

Actions speak louder than words, and have for 40 years. I am so sorry and disappointed.

Cambridge, Massachusetts

No preconditions, please Sir, – Gershon Baskin has written an excellent imaginary letter to the UN’s Ban Ki-moon in the name of our prime minister (“Imagine,” November 9). A serious omission, though, is a statement calling on the parties to enter negotiations without preconditions – something Israel has repeatedly insisted on – meaning there could be no calls for a freeze of construction in Jewishoccupied towns, villages and suburbs, wherever they may be.

Tel Mond

Agreeing on one thing

Sir, – I do not usually agree with letter writer Leonard Zurakov, but his correspondence of November 9 on the Ariel theater boycott (“Striking a nerve”) finds me in agreement with his statement that Ariel will have its future discussed in a peace treaty between Israel and Palestinians.

Until then, however, do the legally residing Israelis in Ariel not have the right to cultural activities? IRVING POLL Netanya Good suggestion Sir, – The suggestion of a longterm lease to resolve the question of borders between Israel and the Palestinians (“PA denies talk of leasing West Bank land to Israel in future deal,” November 2) is a good one. Ramallah, Jericho and a few other localities can be leased for 99 years, at the end of which they would revert to Israel.



Sir, – I cannot believe what I just read: “TA gang rape suspect gets plea bargain” (November 9).

A violent rapist gets a plea bargain? First, he rapes 20 times a girl who could not defend herself – the fact that he raped her violently is of no importance. Then, the charge of raping another girl is being dropped, thereby making her a liar.

After six years and eight months! A violent rapist will be free on the streets to rape again. Once a rapist always a rapist.

Our courts are negligent and uncaring.

Tel Aviv

A victory indeed

Sir, – As one who voted twice for Bill Clinton, I say that Gil Hoffman’s “No Israeli victory in a Democrat defeat” (October 29) is dead wrong. Here is why: Israel faces an existential threat from Iran because if the apocalyptic Shi’ite regime gets hold of the bomb it may well use it to trigger a nuclear war in order to hasten the return of the Mahdi, the “hidden 12th imam.” Most Israelis have never heard of the Mahdi, and those who have think it is merely crazy talk. However, ignorance about the motives of the adversary who seeks your destruction has proven lethal before.

It is the Israeli government’s duty to understand the threat, and fortunately it does. Likewise, it is the duty of the president of the United States to understand the threat facing the US due to the ineffectiveness in regard to Iran of the doctrine of mutual assured destruction (MAD). But in this President Obama and his administration have failed miserably.

Obama’s repeated attempts to appease the Iranian mullahs is endangering the lives of millions in Israel, Iran and the US.

In this context, any defeat of Democrats (who are the main supporters of this failed policy) in the House and Senate was a step away from this utopian and dangerous appeasement, and a victory for the US and Israel.


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