Israel has failed to bring economic boon to all parts of nation, Gantz says

Hospitals, schools and transportation system are a ‘resounding failure,’ head of Blue and White opposition party declares at economic forum in Jerusalem

Shoshanna Solomon was The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

Benny Gantz at the Eli Hurvitz Conference on Economy and Society organized by the Israel Democracy Institute, December 17, 2019 (Michal Fattal)
Benny Gantz at the Eli Hurvitz Conference on Economy and Society organized by the Israel Democracy Institute, December 17, 2019 (Michal Fattal)

Israel’s economy is strong, but social inequality threatens to weaken the nation, Benny Gantz, the leader of the Blue and White opposition party, said on Tuesday.

Speaking at the Eli Hurvitz Conference on Economy and Society, held by the Israel Democracy Institute in Jerusalem, Gantz said the fruits of the economic prosperity Israel has recently witnessed have not trickled down to the whole population, leaving many in the geographic periphery, and the Arab and ultra-Orthodox communities, sidelined.

Israel “has failed in the past decade, and even more so in the past few years, in bringing this success to citizens for the long term,” he said.

Gantz said that while the successful lowering of airfares provides some fleeting pleasure, hospitals, schools and transportation are a “resounding failure.” He promised to fix these pressing issues if elected prime minister in March, the third time within a year Israel is holding an election.

His aim, he said, is to reduce the widening social gaps through investments in each of these areas, which “will be the basis for growth going forward.”

“I am disturbed by the situation of Israeli society. The trunk of the tree is stable and strong but the branches are shortening and becoming dry, and they will not survive if we don’t all work together,” he said.

“If a child in the periphery does not get an equal opportunity [as a child in the country’s economic and geographic center], the branches on which Israeli solidarity rests will crumble, and with it our security, the people’s army,” he said.

Corruption, neglect and condescension are what led Israel to a third round of elections, he said.

When a prime minister is busy with seeking immunity, “there can be no unity government that can promote important issues for citizens,” he said, referring to incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. who is facing a corruption indictment. When a prime minister is busy with his own legal woes, “he cannot be busy building the people and the country.”

When there is no transparency, Gantz continued, there is corruption. And when a prime minister says that everything is fine, and nothing needs to be fixed, “there is no efficiency, no productivity and no policy.”

Gantz said that as prime minister his key priorities will be to invest in education, infrastructure, the democratic and legal establishments, and security.

All of this will cost money, he said, but in the long run it will enable the economy to flourish. “We need steps that will build the future, a long-term view. This is how a state needs to be run.”

At the conference, Bank of Israel governor Amir Yaron said that this interim period, between elections, should be used by ministries to set out plans and programs that will benefit the economy and that can be implemented as soon as a new government is formed.

Israel doesn’t have the “privilege” of delay, he said. “We must take advantage of the near term to prepare programs that can meet our needs for the coming years.”

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