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romneyland-mediterranean illustrates a private equity takeover of a country, only this time it's Israel, and it's mitten's old college chum bibi. Either one doesn't matter, bankruptcy is the goal, to kill off all benefits contracts in a starve the beast model.

The corollary is that over years, the share of gross domestic product available to the government dropped. Spending on education and health slid. One means the government has used to cut costs is hiring workers as temps through agencies, thereby denying them standard benefits and job security. Public schools employ teachers as temps. Mess halls at major army bases have been contracted out to private companies, which provide lower-quality food and spend less on workers than the army did on soldiers. By 2010, according to the National Insurance Institute, a central anti-poverty agency, the proportion of Israelis under the poverty line was close to 25 percent, about twice the average for countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

But poverty figures don't describe the growing insecurity of the middle class, the lack of economic future felt by educated young people. Nor do they show the low results of Israeli schoolchildren on international exams. According to the latest State of the Nation Report by the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies, successive governments have let the Israeli education system "sink to the lowest level in the developed world." Keep in mind that Israel's economy is driven by high-tech industries, which depend on a highly educated workforce. Israel starving its schools is like Kuwait destroying oil wells.

To frame this differently: The government, especially under Netanyahu, has treated its wealthiest citizens as shareholders and increased their dividends. It has treated the rest of the population as employees whose pay can stagnate. And the immediate dividends for the "shareholders" come at the price of long-term investments that will keep the "company" profitable.

Last summer, Israelis finally got mad. Leef, a film editor in her mid-20s, provided the spark. Unable to afford an apartment in Tel Aviv, she announced on Facebook that she was setting up a tent on the center island of the city's Rothschild Boulevard. Within two weeks, Rothschild had become Tent Boulevard, with the encampment stretching for blocks. By early August, rallies around the country drew 350,000 people into the streets on the same nightone out of every 20 Israelis, the equivalent of 15 million Americans marching together.

douglaslee's picture
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

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