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The Jerusalem Post7 Feb ’11
The Herzliya Conference has become an important international event, but one central issue is absent: Israel’s debilitating economic concentration.
“It is possible that we are sitting on a powder keg in the social sphere,” Prof. Rafi Melnick announced dramatically on the eve of the Herzliya Conference, taking place this week.
But looking at the themes of the conference’s sessions—partly changed in the last minute to deal with the uprising in Egypt—you won’t find even a hint of the central factor that is behind the threat defined by one of the conference’s leaders.
This is disappointing. It is expected that the Herzliya Conference, justly considered a central platform for security issues in the broader sense, including social and economic factors that impact on them, will not overlook or disregard a major economic issue, arguably the issue that will shape the future growth of the economy.
But despite the difficult economic situation of most people, who can barely make ends meet on the less than NIS 6,000 a month they earn, it seems that for the conference organizers and the well-heeled elites, it’s all quiet on the economic front.
Could it be that these people who pride themselves on their social consciousness and solidarity don’t really care? What other explanation do we have for the embarrassing silence of the conference and its participants when it comes to the shameful condition of millions of workers, who, for decades now, cannot make it on their salaries. How can we explain that at such an important conference there is no discussion of the central factor responsible for this situation—the excessive economic and political concentration that prevents our economy from fulfilling its potential, exacerbates social tension, corrupts both the economy and politics and impoverishes so many?
If it were possible to turn a whole conference around in the last minute to deal with the events in Egypt, why was it not possible, as the organizers claimed, to add even a roundtable discussion to deal with this major issue?
ALL THIS when concentration—as was asserted recently by most of the speakers at the Ne’eman Center (affiliated with the Technion) Conference—is the chief cause for lack of competition and lack of efficiency in the economy. These two factors are the reasons for the relatively low productivity of our capable workers—only two-thirds of American workers—and for their low wages.
Concentration is also behind the ability of the tycoon-owned monopolies to highly inflate the price of all consumer goods and services. The worker is caught in a vice between low wages and high prices, and is simply strangled by them.
Under the brilliant leadership of Dr. Uzi Arad, his consultants and aides, the Herzliya Conference became an important international event devoted to national security. Arad and his associates became convinced that economics plays a major role in national strength. I was privileged to direct the economic section of the Herzliya Conference in its first three years, and there was always a tension with those who wanted all of the time to be devoted to security and not to economics and education. Still, in the past the conference never missed a major economic issue as it did now.
Under the chairmanship of Danny Rothschild the conference made additional strides forward, though it is difficult to judge what is its contribution to the decision-making process. Governance (to be discussed in one of the sessions) is even more problematic here than elsewhere because of the wider involvement of government in everyday life. It causes more problems than it pretends to solve.
One important innovation is the introduction of roundtable discussions. They will facilitate a wider and deeper discussion of issues by more participants. In the past there was a lack of opportunity for participants who were not on panels, some of whom were people of great substance and achievement, to get a hearing. Now it should be easier.
This however makes the disappointment with the lack of any mention of a crucial issue even greater. Just by forming another roundtable, easily done at the last minute, the problem could have been solved. But the organizers chose instead to present two sessions devoted to the global economy, another on trade with the East, a session on employment in the Arab sector (why not employment generally, is it not as important though perhaps less politically correct?), one on the economic ramifications of the regional turmoil, one on women’s leadership and a last on the digital environment in education.
All these are certainly important topics. But they pale in significance when compared with the major issue of concentration, which was not included on the agenda, the organizers explained, “after prolonged and deep deliberation.”
The struggle against debilitating concentration may turn to be historic, with enormous ramification for the economy and its well-being. It would be interesting to know why it was deliberately excluded
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Unless the laggard Israeli economy is reformed soon, its problems—including its morally debilitating corruption—may threaten its future.
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What does it say about Israeli society and the system of government when a prime minister is convicted of taking bribes?
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The productivity of Israeli workers is only two-thirds that of Americans, and their salaries are much lower.
The Jerusalem Post11 Jul ’13
As he completes an exceptionally difficult 8-year tour of duty during a worldwide financial crisis, Stanley Fischer has achieved a unique status.
The Weekly Standard7 Jun ’13
When Israel finally discovered a bonanza of natural gas about five years ago everyone was happy. But then fierce arguments broke out—and rightly so.
The Weekly Standard22 Apr ’13
The economic future of Israel now rests in the hands Netanyahu, Lapid and Bennet. Will they succeed in fulfilling the most difficult and complex mission of liberating Israel’s economy?
Israel Hayom2 Jan ’13
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The Jerusalem Post7 Dec ’12
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Israel Hayom8 Nov ’12
The time to prepare the reforms is now, so that after the Israeli elections, the prime minister can immediately devote his time to moving them forward.
The Financial Times21 Jun ’12
Israel Hayom6 Jun ’12
To grapple with the impending crisis, Israel’s government must improve the nation’s competitiveness.
The Jerusalem Post7 May ’12
The Wall Street Journal3 May ’12
Reform-minded Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is stymied by bureaucrats and monopoly tycoons.
Middle East Quarterly30 Mar ’12
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The Jerusalem Post17 Feb ’12
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The Jerusalem Post25 Oct ’11
Aversion toward the rich has had strong roots in Zionism since its early leaders embraced Marxist practices.
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The Jerusalem Post9 Aug ’11
David Lewis, the exceptional entrepreneur and philanthropist, and head of the Isrotel Group dies at 87
The Jerusalem Post20 Jul ’11
Although MKs appear concerned over rising costs, it was they who allowed this injustice to occur in the first place.
The Jerusalem Post28 Jun ’11
Who is to blame for the shameful situation in which millions of Israeli workers – who earn about half what American workers earn – have to pay double for goods?
The New Republic19 May ’11
A Middle East peace strategy that could actually work.
The Jerusalem Post15 Mar ’11
Israel needs to slash its state budget by as much as possible if it wants a chance at fighting waste and corruption.
The Jerusalem Post9 Mar ’11
Too little attention has been paid to how Egypt’s socialist past and welfare-state present shaped the current rebellion.
The Jerusalem Post22 Jan ’11
It’s highly unlikely that government can ever learn to make long-term plans and execute them efficiently.
The Jerusalem Post23 Dec ’10
How can one dare compare narrow-minded religion with the all-embracing faith of universality and equality that is socialism?
The Jerusalem Post1 Dec ’10
Many of the social and economic troubles we are experiencing are due to the public’s lack of understanding of the need for economic literacy.
The Jerusalem Post17 Oct ’10
The PM’s courageous decision to tackle economic concentration was misrepresented by several of our media publications—owned of course by tycoons.
The Wall Street Journal8 Oct ’10
Economic concentration hurts the country’s viability and the chances for peace.
The Jerusalem Post4 Oct ’10
A damaging ethos of ‘welfarism’ and distributive politics has come to dominate not only academia but our cultural, military and even our business elites.
The Jerusalem Post19 Aug ’10
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The Jerusalem Post13 Jul ’10
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The Wall Street Journal18 May ’10
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The Jerusalem Post10 Feb ’10
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The Jerusalem Post10 Jan ’10
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The Jerusalem Post14 Oct ’09
As far as Rose Friedman was concerned, public kudos did not matter that much. She persisted in being a rose, no matter what.
The Jerusalem Post22 Sep ’09
Lasting peace must grow from the bottom up, from an “economic peace process” that proves what advantages peace has to offer on a daily basis. It cannot come from signing peace agreements with radical and corrupt entities propped up by corrupting Western handouts.
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