I know I’ve been doing a lot of these recently, but not a day goes by that I don’t read another article that makes me bang my head against the wall and just concede that we failed the whole “Israel” experiment because of ineptitude. Today, there were three:
1. Incentivising settlements
The government is planning to give new incentives to help grow 70 settlements over the Green Line. Sure, it is part of a broader plan to resolve housing issues and yes, it has not yet been given final approval and could still be revoked, but this is still a horrible policy. It is completely the opposite of what the government should be doing (i.e. introducing disincentives for moving to settlements). It is an unnecessary provocation and achieves no positive result at all aside from pandering to a minority of voters who do reliably vote for parties in the government. (Emphasis added).
Around 70 West Bank settlements were on the list of communities eligible for housing and development grants that the cabinet approved on Sunday.
… It was difficult to change the list for political reasons, the official said. “But it is clear that we are aware of the sensitivities when discussing communities over the Green Line,” the official added … Still, in its notice to the press, the Prime Minister’s Office did not mention limitations to the housing incentives, which include money for development costs of up to NIS 150,000 for agricultural communities and NIS 107,000 for cities. Supplementary housing loans of NIS 100,000 are also available.
According to the Prime Minister’s Office, “The decision is designed to encourage positive migration to the communities and to assist in finding solutions to ease the housing situation. The decision will also contribute to economically strengthening these communities.”
2. Fighting a cultural war between ministries
As Jeremy Ruden has identified, the Interior Ministry and the Housing Ministry are controlled by the ultra-orthodox Shas party and are giving benefits to the Haredi community. The Communication ministry is controlled by secular Likkud and is making life more difficult for Haredim. The result? A horribly run country.
The first was the controversial proposal put forth by Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Atias from the Orthodox Shas party. The government has authorized the construction of about 5,000 housing units across the country which will be made available at a discount of NIS 200,000 for those who meet certain criteria.
… The benefit is awarded based on a point system which assigns weight to various qualifications. While IDF service is a factor, the number of years a person has been married is more decisive. For example, a 33-year-old religious person who never served in the army and does not work but has been married for 10 years would get considerably more points than a secular person of the same age who served, holds a job but has only been married for four years.
… But there is a flip-side to that coin. The Communication Ministry, under Moshe Kahlon from the Likud, is pushing for a directive which would have a negative impact on Internet Service Providers (ISP) which target or are owned by members of the religious community.
The Communication Ministry is proposing that in order for a company to be granted a license to be an ISP, it must provide manned technical support 24 hours a day, every day of the year, with the exception of Yom Kippur. ISPs serving the Orthodox communities are calling foul, and rightfully so. These companies argue that if they are forced to comply with such a regulation, they will lose their Shabbat-observant customers.
3. Our national identity is: the Holocaust
Merav Michaeli this time, on a recent poll which found that there is more or less a consensus amongst Israelis that remembering the Holocaust is important, whereas they disagree on things like belonging to the Jewish People, remembering Shabbat and living in Israel. In other words, the Shoah stands head and shoulders above Zionism, religion and culture as the thing that keeps the nation together. This is not to say that remembering the Shoah is unimportant, but it is very negative for it to form the basis of the identity of the entire nation.
I don’t agree with all of Michaeli’s pseudo-psychological analysis of Israeli identity, but she makes some very good points (emphasis added):
The survivors themselves have never been treated right. Just yesterday it was reported, once again, that half of Israel’s Holocaust survivors are dependent on welfare stipends and that the government has once again reduced its support of them.
At the same time, the “Hitlers” are always there: Just a week ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said for the nth time that there is no shortage of those who want to exterminate us completely. In other words, there is no lack of reasons to continue to reinforce the fear of the Holocaust – which, according to his father, historian Benzion Netanyahu, has never ended.
So it is that we don’t have any rivals, adversaries or even enemies. Only Hitlers. This is how the Holocaust is taught in school, this how it is that Israeli students are taken to visit death camps – and how it came to be that, as Haaretz reported on Friday, just 2 percent of Israeli youth feel committed to democratic principles after studying the Holocaust and 2.5 percent identify with the suffering of other persecuted nations, but 12 percent feel committed to “significant” service in the Israel Defense Forces.