What Israel needs to address to recover from the pandemic - opinion

It’s obvious to all of us that things could be much better. So how do we make that happen?

A CORONAVIRUS-SHAPED balloon floats on the Yarkon River in Tel Aviv on Friday. (photo credit: CORINNA KERN/REUTERS)
A CORONAVIRUS-SHAPED balloon floats on the Yarkon River in Tel Aviv on Friday.
(photo credit: CORINNA KERN/REUTERS)
What do we need for a good life? A good education for our children, health and security. All of that requires a functioning government that understands what’s important to the people it is meant to serve—the citizens.
But that’s not the way it is today. Before the pandemic, Israel enjoyed a high quality of life and a thriving economy. To a large extent, however, that was in spite of, not thanks to, government officials. It’s obvious to all of us that things could be much better. So how do we make that happen?
Four major issues need to be addressed.
1. Governance. The country lacks political stability and authentic governance. We’re all sick and tired of elections every few months and a bloated government that can’t function.
The vacuum is being filled with excessive red tape, the over-involvement of legal advisers, and administration by bureaucrats, which stifles economic productivity. This problem can be solved by electoral reform, a critical step for improving the situation and turning Israel into a reputable nation.
2. Education. The most important thing for any parent, and for our society as a whole, is the education of our children.
What possible justification can there be for the fact that Israel’s youngsters are ranked at the bottom of the list of OECD countries?
The current health crisis is a missed opportunity that could have been used to correct flaws in the system.
Our classrooms are overcrowded, with 25% more students than the OECD average. Because of the pandemic, schoolchildren are compelled to study in small groups. We could have profited from this situation. A nationwide effort to reduce the class size would have benefited us in two ways. Not only would it have led to an improvement in the students’ achievements, but it might also have enabled us to keep the schools open.
Israel is also at the bottom of the list in terms of the number of school days since the start of the pandemic, dealing a blow to the economy since parents are forced to stay home as well. Wouldn’t it have been better to invest in alleviating the overcrowding in the classroom instead of giving handouts to the rich?
The general approach of the Education Ministry has been to engage in fruitless arguments over whether to open the schools, rather than take advantage of the crisis and the billions thrown in all directions to promote the welfare of Israeli schoolchildren. Add to that the regimented thinking that has led to the waste of an entire school year.
Instead, the ministry could have worked together with local authorities to find creative ways to conduct classes.
3. Health. Israel lags behind other developed countries in all parameters: a smaller percentage of the GDP spent on the health system, fewer doctors and nurses, and much fewer hospital beds, per capita – in fact, less of everything.
Luckily, God seems to smile on us. Life expectancy is higher here than in most of the world, and we have excellent medical teams. So the Finance Ministry takes God into consideration in its budget plan and has been starving the health system for years.
The result? Patients in corridors, people waiting for hours in the emergency room, and our exemplary medical staff is collapsing under the strain.
Wouldn’t it make more sense to allocate funds to the hospitals than to sectoral demands?
4. Security. We pay taxes and expect the state to keep us and our property safe. But what actually happens? Crime and anarchy, protection money, agricultural terrorism, the illegal occupation of tens of thousands of hectares in the Negev, mass violations of emergency regulations – a state within a state.
The police and the Border Police are worthy of praise, but how can they be expected to do their job without additional manpower, when they are faced with such a heavy workload and whole communities with no respect for the state?
These aren’t political issues, nor do they have anything to do with the elections. They are national issues about which there is undoubtedly a consensus. Priorities have to be changed. The citizens have to be the focus of attention. We have to know that the taxes we pay go to improving our quality of life.
Draw up a fitting budget and start governing effectively, or step aside and make room for someone who knows how to do it.
Translated from Hebrew by Sara Kitai, [email protected]