Jewish homeland/Israel policy
Adequacy and inadequacy of Israel's policy
towards the duty of maintaining a Jewish homeland
Didier BERTIN - January 16, 2017
1-Peace put at risk by the facts
The Middle East, whose borders have been influenced or established by Western world without taking account of the aspirations of local peoples, is being weakened or disintegrated (Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, etc.) The major hurdle to Peace is that as a result there are no reliable and stable representatives with whom Israel could sign permanent peace. Of course peace agreements have already been signed with Egypt and Jordan, but it is legitimate to ask whether these will not be questioned by future regimes and generations (as the illustration was made in Egypt).
With the Palestinians the situation is even worst as this can be seen from the already existing independent Palestine represented by "Gaza" that gives an idea of what could be the peace with the West Bank. Gaza has utilized its independence to put in power the terrorist movement Hamas whose main target is the destruction of Israel and whose action is concretized by the sending missiles and commandos and implementing fanaticism among the local population.
In Lebanon, which could also illustrate what would be an independent Palestine a major part of the power is in the hands of Hezbollah another terrorist force whose target is also the destruction of Israel with the support of Iran and Syria (the latter being in process of disintegration). The calm on the Syrian border did not thus mean that Syria was conducting a neutral policy towards Israel.
A second independent Palestinian state (West Bank) in addition to Gaza would give an opportunity to create another powerful terrorist base like Gaza. The Palestinian Authority claims to recognize Israel but not as a Jewish state, which means that de facto it does not recognize it. In the event of a full independence of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) Israel would have to fight on three terrorist fronts: Gaza, Lebanon and West Bank, which could be increased by possible other fronts caused by regime changes in neighboring countries.
Before we can talk about peace, we should be ensured of (i) the end of terrorism, (ii) the normalization and moderation of Islam, (iii) the sustainable democratic and economic development of these regions and (iv) the recognition by western countries of Jerusalem as Capital of Israel in order to demonstrate their goodwill and are not walking in the footsteps of Emperor Hadrian on the way of a third Judeo-Roman war. As a result the peace de facto should exist before a signature of peace agreement.
2- The notion of sustainability and the inability of Western diplomacy
The paradigm of Western diplomacy is based on stable, long-established nation-states that share common values often in the view of economic development. This diplomacy only makes sense on stable ground. This stability is however recent even in the Western countries after 1918, 1945 and 1989 and remains fragile. The emergence of anti-democratic regimes and the Brexit within the European Union show that the stability necessary for the functioning of agreements between nations is nowhere truly guaranteed.
As a matter of fact the populations are constantly changing because of the life limit in the frame of great historical and economic cycles that do not even shield the modern Western values that are still fragile.
Many Arab countries have shifted from aspiration to modernism to returning to the anachronistic Koranic values and many Western countries want to return to an equally anachronistic populism to regain lost hopes. It is as if we are entering an era of instability after experiencing an era of development of a few decades based on scientific, economic and humanist values.
Before signing agreements to build the future, it is necessary to ensure that the signatories are representatives of populations that follow a stable evolution. The Palestinian movement itself illustrates instability; Initially Fatah wanted to be perceived as a movement of revolutionary emancipation of peoples towards modern values and now it is threatened with disappearance as a result of the aspiration of its people to return to anachronistic, ancestral and religious values. The Palestinian Authority is challenged by Hamas and seems to be no longer a stable interlocutor. In order to overcome this major flaw, Western countries could propose to act as guarantor of peace, but history also showed how unreliable they were, and when they start action the humanitarian catastrophes took already place: As not exhaustive examples, we can remind the cases of Czechoslovakia, Poland, holocaust and more recently Rwanda.
Is an independence of the West Bank possible in the future? To this end, all Palestinians should adopt the principles of democracy and human rights, confining the reformed Muslim religion to a moderate religion and to the sole private domain and concentrate on their economic development. In fact, as we have said, peace must be achieved before peace agreement is signed.
In equity, Israel also needs to make substantial efforts to separate civil power from religion. Religious power that is too rigid and anachronistic makes life difficult for secular citizens who form the vast majority of the population in Israel and especially for women.
The Jewish identity of Israel as a Jewish modern state must focus on history, language, traditions and cultural heritage.
The meeting on the Middle East on 15 January 2017 in Paris put the cart before the horse and was a catastrophic French initiative typical of the steps of the ending François Hollande's era. The American representative who should only forward routine business should have been decently absent.
3- Paradox: Negative effect on Israel's policy due to foreign hostility on the preservation of a Jewish homeland
The threat of the outside world against Israel has led the Israelis to elect right-wing and far-right parties that promote security in priority at the expenses of civil rights and social protection inseparable from what should be a Jewish homeland that is the existential vocation of Israel.
Israel has undergone a sharp change in its population with the arrival of refugees from Russia, increase in its Jewish Sephardic and Oriental population, and the rise of the religious fact which have led to a strengthening of the Right wing offering in their opinion the best security for the country.
As a matter of fact the Right wing is first perceived as guaranteeing the vital safety of the citizens without getting bogged down in precarious agreements and responds to an instinct of survival. Unfortunately the Right wing involves as corollary the "wild" economic liberalism that the great majority of the population must suffer for the benefit of a minority of rich people.
This Manichean choice of the Right wing is the refusal of security precariousness at the price of a social precariousness whereas a balanced solution could be found by a change of political class in a renewed political system.
The Left wing more open to social progress and the reduction of inequalities is too much influenced by Western diplomacy, which advocates peace at all costs without considering the long term interest of Israel. There should therefore be a third way that promotes both security and the reduction of inequalities between citizens through a better controlled economy.
Housing and coping with everyday spendings are becoming increasingly difficult challenges in a precarious employment climate; unemployment is limited thanks to labor laws that favors employers and weakens employees. The rise in housing prices due to the speculators and the greed of the promoters impose the allocation to the housing of too big share of households income which too often leads them to over-indebtedness; Some of young first-time buyers choose to live in the West Bank because the prices are there affordable despite they would have preferred to live in Israel.
4- Legislative System and Political Class
The legislative system is based on the election of a plethora of "political parties"; Citizens elect political parties and not MPs with whom they have virtually no contact. The election is proportional and on lists and only 1.5% of votes enables one party to have one MP. Once elected the parties appoint the MPs according to their internal political games that include internal struggles for power far from the citizens. The plethora of political parties involves coalition with small parties struggling for ministerial positions. The small parties are often over-represented in the facts as a result of blackmail to form a majority coalition. This system enables also the nomination of MPs who were condemned by justice as Samuel Flatto-Sharon (who is no longer MP) or a former prisoner for delinquency as Aryeh Deri who was incredibly appointed very recently as Minister of the Interior in the government of Benyamin Netanyahu.
The steps to be taken to safeguard democracy in Israel would be (i) to create geographical districts where candidates will directly be elected by the citizens of the district according to their competences and will be accountable during their full mandate of their action before the local voters and (ii) to raise the eligibility threshold to 5% of the votes instead of 1.5%. The system should be organized in favor of big parties to protect them from the disproportionate requests of small parties which led to their over-representation.
Political class: Without going into details the fact that a former President and a former Prime Minister are currently incarcerated respectively for rape and corruption is significant. Moreover, as we have mentioned, the new Ministry of the Interior, who is responsible for maintaining public order, is a former prisoner (3 years in prison for corruption and misuse of social assets). There is intellectual elite in Israel that could replace the current political class in the interest of the country.
Moreover, the current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is suspected of having accepted personal gifts of great value, which seems unlikely in a modern democratic state. Any gift to a representative of a State is the property of the State.
Two prime ministerial mandates should be a maximum limit to avoid excessive personalization of power and risk of drift.
5-Wild economic liberalism: the economic situation of Israeli citizens and what remains of the Jewish homeland
Israel's GDP has reached $ 296 billion (2015), or $ 36,200 per capita, with a growth rate of more than 2 per cent since 2013. The particular problem posed by Israel is shown in the fact that GDP at purchasing power parity is 4.7% lower than its nominal value: $ 282 billion or $ 34,500 per capita.
Israel ranks 56th in the world, roughly similar rank as Spain, Italy or Cyprus (Sweden is 25th and France 38th roughly as UK with $ 42,000 per capita). The average wage in Israel amounts approximately to 10,000 Shekels (2,400 Euros) but the median wage which much more significant was in the vicinity of 6,540 shekels (1,600 Euros) for 42 hours of work. The median wage means that the population earning more than this wage is equal to the population earning less. The minimum wage became 4,825 Shekels in 2017 or 1,176 Euros. 66% of the population would have a wage lower than the average wage of 2,400 Shekels and about 50% of the workforce should have a wage included between 1,600 Euros (median) and 1,176 Euros (minimum).
The difference between the value of nominal GDP and purchasing power parity GDP and the substantial difference between the average and median wages underline together the high inequality in the distribution of income and high prices. This substantial inequality is confirmed by the GINI index of 42.8% (0 means that all individuals in a country have an equal income while 100% means that one single individual concentrates the whole income). Sweden and Denmark, which pursue a policy of solidarity between citizens, have a Gini index of less than 25% and the main European economy (Germany) has an index of 27%. In fact, this situation is worse than it seems in view of the long-term reduction in social allowances such as unemployment allowance and their short duration, the late retirement age, the low pensions and the limited basket of subsidized medicines. Job insecurity is high given the low level of legal protection, the rented housing is precarious since contract are limited to one year and rents can be increased without any legal limits...
The unequal distribution of income in Israel (Gini index) is similar to the ones of countries like Nigeria, Chad, Kenya, Burundi, Ghana and Iran.
This situation is unacceptable and inconsistent with what should be a Jewish homeland that should be characterized by exemplary solidarity between citizens.
It seems that a minority of the population including speculators take a substantial part of the national income while they enjoy the security provided by the very long military service and reserve periods carried out by all the Israeli citizens in majority poorly paid and poorly socially protected.
Consumer prices are high due to the lack of effective competition between distribution and service companies; as we have already mentioned real estate speculation has reached peaks that make it impossible home acquisition for first time buyers. This will increase the social instability since 43% of the population is less than 24 years old. This deregulated market made pandemic growth of housing prices because of the greed of the promoters, investors while many simple buyers act as followers in a panic context at the expenses of their residual purchasing power. Deregulation of housing market is not appropriate for a Jewish homeland where solidarity and control of the ground property must prevail.
The poverty rate is normally equal to 60% of the median wage but given the abnormally high prices in Israel it would be more significant to apply the French poverty line of 1730 Euros which would lead us to consider that more than half of the Population in Israel lives below the poverty line. This figure cannot be explained at all by the poverty of many Arab Israelis and Orthodox Jews and merely underlines as we said the strong inequality in the distribution of national income due to an inadequate or even involuntary anti-Zionist Israeli government policy.
What should mathematically be the median fair value of a family flat?
Considering a median wage of 1600 Euro and the fact that a 30 year loan repayment with 4% interest should not exceed 30% of this wage in order to avoid the infernal spiral of over-indebtedness, i.e. 480 Euros we obtain a value of roughly 400,000 Shekels or 100 000 Euros. If two parents work we obtain a value of 800 000 Shekels or roughly 200,000 Euros with two median wages. We must keep in mind that the housing should be close of an activity district to enable the purchasers to earn wages and that in a couple a women earns much less than a man. As a matter of fact, in Israel a Jewish woman earns a wage of approximately 68% of that of a Jewish man. In addition, housing solutions must be also found for half of the population with wages below the median wage. In this context the price of m2 in the area of Tel Aviv (a big employment center) is just shocking with 9 100 Euros/ m2 i.e. 800 000 Euros or 3 200 000 shekels for a family flat of 90 m2.
The situation could be together shocking and provocative in the so called "Gold Kilometer" in front of the beach of Tel Aviv where luxury homes can cost up to 30 million Euros despite they are in the range of the terrorist missiles. The purchasers are generally foreign investors but theses prices have an inflationary influence of the whole real estate market.
Often the residual income after loan repayments do not permit the residents to properly keep in good conditions their building despite negligible heating expenses and some popular suburban districts start to look like shantytowns; due to market conditions the price of slums remains high and one can probably find in Israel the highest price in the world of m2 of slums. These remarks are based on more than fifty years personal observations.
This wild speculation in real estate requires urgent and stringent governmental steps in the interests of all citizens and emigrants who also have rights on the Jewish homeland in case of danger. The real estate market of a homeland should be regulated with stringent steps as preemptions, expropriations, limits of the profits of real estate developers.
Similarly, bank must be supervised or even nationalized if necessary because they participate to inflation and request plethoric private guarantees in addition to the mortgage. The personal guarantees may have the effect of spreading the non-payment risk of one family to many others. The Israeli Bank must learn the professional method of syndication of risk on the interbank market and not on individuals which is an anachronism.
Peace negotiations involve stable interlocutors in stable contexts who should recognize Israel not only as a State but also as a Jewish State whose Capital is Jerusalem. Interlocutors must renounce to terrorism, and separate religion from civil affairs (as Israel should also do) become full democracies and pay great attention to Human Rights and well-being Economic development of their citizens. The sole real guarantee is that the Peace agreements be signed after an effective peace. This could require one or more generations and in the meantime Israel must maintain security control over West Bank and avoid repeating the disastrous terrorist experience of Gaza which is an independent Palestine unfortunately for Egypt and Israel.
Western nations should also restrict advises mainly based on their economic interests with Arab countries. Western countries which make necessary the existence of a Jewish homeland as a result of their antisemitic policies should first show their good will by transferring their Embassies to Jerusalem.
It is essential to raise the threshold of representativeness in the Knesset to prevent small parties from blackmailing the big parties made possible to form necessary coalition. Proportional ballots should also be discontinued and MP candidates should stand in front of their voters in separate geographical districts. Each MP would thus be held accountable to citizens throughout his or her term of office, rather than focusing on internal maneuvers in his or her Party. The political class should be renewed to escape the growing development of corruption which is a mean of exempting themselves of harsh economic steps against the citizens.
Israel as a Jewish homeland must come back to solidarity and equality as the developed countries of Europe and stop to be the country of high prices and the realm of real estate speculation to the utmost.
For the secular Jews Israel must be a land welcoming the Jews who would be forced to take refuge there (the rest of the European Jewish population and perhaps a growing part of the American Jews victims of new hostile movements).
For the Jewish believers Israel is a divine gift, a sacred land that must not be the object of a vile trade that would transform it into a golden calf that would hasten its end.