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for Social & Economic Progress
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Israel Hayom15 May ’14
What does it say about Israeli society and the system of government when a prime minister is convicted of taking bribes?
There will always be a few rotten apples. But the Holyland case, and many other instances of bribery at the upper echelon, show us that the corruption spreading in the government is part of the system that allows politics to control the economy.
Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had partners: mayors, city council members, the city engineers, cohorts on the planning committees and wheelers and dealers. But Holyland isn’t alone at the top. Every day, incidences of destructive corruption in the public and private sectors are discovered, from IDB and Hadassah to many municipalities and even the Keren Kayemet and the military chief of staff (all allegations, of course).
Corruption has become a national plague, an integral part of the Israeli regime of concentrated power. Knesset members and the government bureaucracy have gathered immense economic power. They gouge most of the population for taxes while exempting their cronies. They grant the inner circle monopolistic rights worth billions.
There are a few honest people among them, but is there any chance that anyone from that crop won’t become infested, that an open door won’t tempt thieves? Certain politicians and bureaucrats and their friends who serve the tycoons allow them and their huge companies to steal billions from hundreds of thousands of families who can barely stretch their budgets to the end of the month.
Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
A list of “pigocks” (“havasim” in Hebrew, a play on the words for “pig” and “peacock”) was recently published that included many former senior figures in the Treasury and the Bank of Israel. In exchange for bloated salaries and millions of shekels in bonuses, they “manage” the tycoons’ monopolies. To their discredit, they help tycoons wring all sorts of benefits out of the government, all sorts of privileges and monopolistic rights that squeeze the public, especially low-income citizens, out of billions by setting inflated prices. They receive giant salaries, even if they are the failing directors of businesses that earn profits only by exploiting the public.
Aided by top lawyers, who twist the law to their liking, and with the help of leading accountants, who make worthless presentations that obscure the bad situation of the tycoons’ businesses; with the aid of friendly bankers, PR people, and chirping media canaries, they have pulled billions in credit out of our pension funds and flung them at speculative projects. Billions in pension fund money have been wiped out and emptied the coffers of the Israeli economy, whose excellent human resources and the trillion shekels in foreign investment were supposed to make one of the richest economies in the world. These are the successful “captains of industry” whom attorney Ron Caspi warns us against restraining, lest they leave, abandoning us with nothing.
The Dankner family, for example, got the franchise to produce salt from government property at Atlit, near Haifa. As agricultural ground, it wasn’t worth much, but for some reason the Israel Lands Authority gave a green light to upgrade the lots for extended construction. Their value soared. The deal didn’t go through, but a letter of intent was enough for Bank Leumi to give the Dankners a loan of 358 million shekels ($103.5 million) to purchase some 12 percent of Bank Hapoalim and leverage their status in the bank to take control of IDB and other key companies, only to bankrupt them.
The tycoons’ thievery has wrecked families.
It also undermines our security. Over a million young Israelis have moved to the U.S. and to Europe, not out of lack of patriotism but because they cannot support a family on 5,000 shekels ($1,400) a month when the price of an apartment is equal to 140 salaries and the price of products and services are twice of those in the U.S. The chance of promotion in the workplace is slim. Most employers are controlled by tycoons or by monopolistic unions rife with corruption that prevent outsiders from moving up the ladder.
Israel wouldn’t be the only country that corruption—which lets politicians, oligarchs, and monopolistic unions control the economy—causes to crumble. But it would be the first Jewish state, whose children gave their lives to found it, to be destroyed by people lusting after power and lucre, because most of its people—even the elite—are ignoring the fact that without bread there can be no ideals and that the economy is being exploited, and are saying nothing.
The Jerusalem Post30 Jun ’15
Israel’s last elections proved how right David Ben-Gurion was when he said that, in Israel, whoever does not believe in miracles is not a realist.
PJ Media20 Jun ’15
The security challenges facing Israel obscure other deep concerns about the viability of Israel’s economic system.
The Jerusalem Post7 Jun ’14
Unless the laggard Israeli economy is reformed soon, its problems—including its morally debilitating corruption—may threaten its future.
Israel Hayom23 Feb ’14
What kind of education should it offer and at what cost?
The Jerusalem Post9 Jan ’14
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
The Israeli government could eradicate poverty by breaking the monopolies and spurring competition.
The Jerusalem Post7 Dec ’12
Our socialist and statist heritage bred our inefficient system. But foreign aid and remittances were serious enablers. The struggle against political and economic concentration could finally permit Israelis to overcome this destructive heritage.
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
As the high hopes for a brave new Middle East fade rapidly, Western policymakers must recognize that promoting market economics and its inevitable cultural changes are far more critical to the region’s well-being than encouraging free elections or resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The Jerusalem Post17 Feb ’12
The choice is between an efficient, growth-inducing market economy or a welfare state, meaning a huge government that actually harms the poor and inhibits prosperity.
The Jerusalem Post25 Oct ’11
Aversion toward the rich has had strong roots in Zionism since its early leaders embraced Marxist practices.
Is capitalism in crisis? Of course.
The Jerusalem Post10 Aug ’11
The tent-dwellers’ revolt calls for the enforcement of ‘the will of the people’ (like all autocrats). It refuses to rely on Democracy.
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 Post7 Feb ’11
The Herzliya Conference has become an important international event, but one central issue is absent: Israel’s debilitating economic concentration.
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
The reformers must know the importance of the reform’s success both for Israel and for their careers, and what damage they will incur if it fails.
The Jerusalem Post13 Jul ’10
Kagan’s admiration for Justice Aharon Barak’s philosophy may have revealed her own predilection for radical judicial activism.
The Jerusalem Post30 May ’10
We must dismantle the oligarch-owned monopolies that impoverish the Israeli consumer and choke our economy.
The Wall Street Journal18 May ’10
The OECD’s invitation to Israel is a “seal of approval” but the country still needs more reforms.
The Jerusalem Post10 Feb ’10
The world’s astonishment at Israel’s response to the Haiti disaster is insulting. What we saw there was Israel’s true face.
The Jerusalem Post10 Jan ’10
Individual initiative and freedom are essential for creativity—in hi-tech as in all other spheres.
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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