January 2, 2019: Diminishing returns

Readers of The Jerusalem Post have their say.

Letters (photo credit: PIXABAY)
(photo credit: PIXABAY)
Poverty perspective
Regarding “21.2% of Israelis live in poverty” (January 1), the National Insurance Institute informs us that nearly a quarter of the Israeli population lives in poverty – including 47.1% of Arab families and 43.1 % of the ultra-Orthodox. Israel has the highest rate of poverty of the OECD countries.
In a knee-jerk Pavlovian response, Eli Cohen, the CEO of the poverty assistance organization says the situation is disgraceful, that the public’s intelligence is disrespected because the report shows an improvement of half a percentage and regards it as an achievement. The politicians, equally Pavlovian, add to the disrespect of the public’s intelligence and blame the government.
Is there anywhere a mention of the life-styles of the Arabs and the ultra-Orthodox, who cherish extra-large families without the ability to support them? Many of them support their families with National Insurance benefits and represent a demographic threat. Is there anywhere a discussion of the disproportionate fraction of the GDP that must go to protecting Israel militarily from the jihadist enemies surrounding us? Do Denmark and the Netherlands have to support a large military to protect themselves from Switzerland? Is it fair to compare us to Sweden?
Instead of congratulating us on creating an oasis of democracy and freedom in the Middle East, Israel is constantly berated and belittled. Enough.
Transparent agenda
Susan Hattis Rolef is of the opinion (“The rule of law and the coming election,” December 31) “that the results of the election will also depend on how large a segment of the population believes that popular men of power deserve to get away with minor, or even not so minor transgressions, and doesn’t really give a damn about the rule of law, and equality under the law in a democracy.”
When the electorate goes to the polls on April 9, the question uppermost in their minds is which party head and which bloc is best suited to leading the country and confronting the many challenges it faces primarily regarding security and the economy. That is the reason polls show a clear preference for the right-wing bloc after the debacle of the Oslo Accords and the expulsion from Gush Katif.
The writer’s “fear that contempt for the rule of law is much more prevalent in present day Israel than it ought to be” is completely unfounded and is nothing but a feeble attempt to mask the bankruptcy of the Left’s agenda.
Ma’aleh Adumim
Congratulating Trump
We have regular antagonistic articles written by Douglas Bloomfield, an American Donald Trump hater who vilifies the gutsy and realistic achievements of the US president in the Middle East, especially for Israel and its citizens. (“Trump’s Xmas gift to himself,” December 27). He is unremorseful in his invective, which scorns and contradicts many of the president’s campaign and election promises – in particular the necessity of building a wall to protect his citizens against terrorists, illegal immigration, economic refugees, border control of drug and people trafficking.
He takes to task as fantasy the lifesaving barrier erected for Israeli citizens. He maintains it is phony, as there is no comparison to protect Israel with a border barrier. The reality is, since installed, it has been justified by the decrease in terrorist activity.
Where is his memory when Arab suicide bombers on a martyr mission in the Second Intifada killed hundreds of our citizens on our buses and eating establishments by walking across the street?
I congratulate Donald Trump and his administration, including Nicki Haley and John Bolton, for action in the fight for our survival.
Farewell, UNESCO
It was encouraging to read that Israel (and the US) have finally “taken the leap” to resign from UNESCO (“Israel, US quit UNESCO to protest bias against Jewish state,” January 1). That in itself is but a small step to what is ultimately required – Israel resigning from the United Nations itself.
We are supposed to be a “light unto the nations.”
 Let us shine the light on this corrupt, dysfunctional body, and say goodbye. The UN’s predecessor – the League of Nations – when it outlived is raison d’etre, went through such a process; it is time for the United Nations to do the same.
Tzur Yitzhak
Wake-up call
Regarding “Belgium region’s kosher slaughter ban goes into effect” (December 31), I believe that Rabbi Goldschmidt’s “wake-up call” is only half correct. It is indeed a wake up call – not one to build ties, but rather to see that Europe once again wants to eradicate Judaism (if not Jews) from within its borders.
Beit Shemesh
Gender separation
I would like to add one thought to David Harel and Orna Kupferman’s article “On gender separation in academia” (December 22).
Quite irrespective of any religious – haredi or otherwise – connotation, the merits of single-gender vs co-education, especially in higher education, was much debated in secular educational circles in the United States during the past 50 years. It was widely acknowledged that while there were many advantages to co-education, women tended to assume more leadership roles in womens’ colleges. I remember myself as a student in a secular women’s college in the US, when being informed that my college would soon become co-e having mixed feelings, on the one hand looking forward to the change, and on the other, feeling somehow that as women, we would lose part of our educational autonomy in the process.
Beit Shemesh
Price rises
The recent announced price rises by major Israeli food producers, subsequently culminated by the proposed rises in water and electricity without proper government intervention, shows the failure of the Finance Minister Kahlon and his ministry. It is as if the numerous layers of unproductive ministry bureaucrats are still using an abacus for their calculations, enabling them to procrastinate. With these rises in utility costs, the prices of produced Israeli products may be subjected to additional rises as a result.
Some of the major food producers/distributors are owned Israeli private subsidiaries of major international groups such Bright Foods (Tnuva), Nestle (Osem) and Unilever. As private limited companies, the public has no access to information as to turnover, profits, directors, address of registered offices, etc.. Do such companies pay Israeli tax on their profits or have the international tax accountants’ derived schemes to remit all profits before tax to the overseas holding company, not paying any Israeli tax?
Additionally, there are major retailers such as SuperPharm that are also private Israeli companies; the list is endless. It would appear that such companies are making excessive profits without any form of control and the public has no access to their financial statistics. This leads to corruption. It is time for a Companies Law to be enacted, similar to the UK where all limited companies have to disclose such information to the public.
The excuse for the rise in electricity while the price of fuel decreases – even more so with the availability of Israeli natural gas – is to make consumers pay for the past misdeeds of the directors and senior management, with government agreement, permitting such rises to effectively cover the cost of the exorbitant pensions to past highly paid IEC employees, rather than ensure the Israeli natural gas tariff is lowered for use at home.
The water increase to pay today for the construction of new future desalination plants appears bizarre. Currently international interest rates are very low and such projects could be funded by international financing with the price increase taking effect when these plants come on stream.
As to connecting new housing projects to the water supply, this cost should be borne and inbuilt into the overall cost of the housing projects and not burden today’s consumers.
This farce has to stop now before the overburdened consumer becomes a slave to the state.
MBA, Investment Analysis
Electoral reform
In his letter “Political Ponderings (December 31), Neville Teller proposes the establishment of an expert committee to recommend a system for electoral reform in Israel. Such a commission was formed in the past amid much fanfare by then-president Moshe Katsav.
The commission, headed by Hebrew University president Menahem Magidor, spent 15 months exhaustively studying the electoral system. It recommended that half the Knesset be elected directly within the 17 districts the country is divided into by the Interior Ministry. Each district would be represented by two to five MKs, while the other half of the Knesset would be elected via the current system of party-list proportional representation.
Since then, the findings have gathered dust, like many other reports written by star-powered commissions. Hebrew University professor Menahem Ben-Sasson of Kadima, then head of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee in the outgoing Knesset, made a serious effort to pass a proposal to at least elect a third of the Knesset directly. The proposal won the support of some 90 MKs, including the three largest factions at that time – Kadima, Labor and Likud. Shas, assessing that it would be harmed by such a change, blocked it, vowing to do the same in any future government it joins.
Subsequently, Tel Aviv University professor Gideon Doron formed the “Hayisraelim” Party, after all his attempts to lobby for electoral reform from inside the current parties failed, again to no avail.
Still, we must not despair. There is no doubt that at the core of our country’s problems is the dysfunctional electoral system. Let us urge decent politicians (there must be some!) and parties to energetically campaign for electoral and constitutional reform. They will have my vote and surely very many others.
Professor, Tel Aviv University
In “NY Times: Killing of Palestinian medic ‘reckless at best... possibly war crime’” (31/12, page 7), the article mistakenly states that the New York Times reported that the shooting of a Gaza medic was intentional. The Post regrets the error.