Monday, May 13, 2013

Third-World Economics and First-World Armies

Dan Ben-David, of JDC’s Taub Center, spoke last week in New York at the JDC Board meetings. As usual, his comments were incisive and memorable. In particular, I found his remarks about the 2011 demonstrations to be right on the mark.

In the 2011 demonstrations, 5% of the population came out one Saturday night to demonstrate. This wasn’t connected to the peace process, to our neighbors or to the poor. 
This was by and about the middle-class, who were worried about the future of their State. 
That’s equivalent to 16.5 million Americans demonstrating about their fears and hopes.

They were demonstrating about the price of apartments, cottage cheese, kindergartens.

But this was just the tip of the iceberg.

And the iceberg itself is far more dangerous. And only now are we starting to discover just how big this iceberg actually is.
And we’re sailing right towards it.

Over the last forty years, Israel’s standard of living has declined compared to all Western countries. We were one of the most egalitarian countries in the world, now we’re pretty much the most unequal.

What’s most interesting is how the massive political upheaval this year has been shaped by what happened two years ago. Kadima has been pretty much wiped out, after being the largest party in the last Knesset. Yesh Atid has come from zero to being the second largest party and perhaps the most significant political force. 
And in the elections we ignored Syria, the Palestinians, our entire neighborhood. We focused on internal issues and demographics. 
The reason for that is that there’s increasingly a realization that national security also means whether or not our children will choose to stay in Israel.
Demography also means how many people have the will and the capability/skills to work and earn a living in a modern economy.

The achievements of 50% of Israel’s children are below those of Third-World countries.

And as they age into the adult population and (because of higher birth-rates) become the majority, were going to discover that Third-World economics can't sustain a First-World state, or a First-World army.

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