By: Arye Green
Nearly 2.3 million Israelis, including one million children, live under the poverty line, according to the annual “alternative” poverty report published on Monday by the Latet non-profit.
The report found that more Israelis are having a hard time putting food on the table, with over 1.6 million people, 18.5% of Israel’s population, suffering from food insecurity, up 2% since last year.
Among those who receive food from welfare organizations, 74.8% reported that the support was not sufficient and they did not have the means to make up the difference, and 29.4% reported weight loss due to lack of food.
30.4% of food aid recipients said that in the past year the children in their home reduced the size of their meals or skipped meals due to economic hardship. Almost a quarter (23.5%) indicated that in the past year, the children in their homes were hungry but refrained from eating because they did have not enough money to buy food.
However, the number of people who are in debt among those who receive welfare support has gone down significantly this year, from 70.9% in 2018 to 61.9% in 2019, a 9% decline.
Latet’s “alternative” poverty report is different than Israel’s official poverty report, which is published by the National Insurance Institute and measures poverty based solely on income.
The “alternative” report measures poverty according to the reports of the families who receive aid as well as the aid organizations. The report examines the aid recipients’ ability to access basic necessities such as housing, education, healthcare and food.
Latet chairman Gilles Darmon and executive director Eran Weintrob said in a joint statement that the political stalemate had exacerbated the economic situation of Israel’s poorest demographic.
“For many years, Israeli governments have maintained poverty through poor priorities and have abandoned one-quarter of the country’s population. Frequent and continuous election campaigns, a paralyzed Knesset and a transitional government that cannot govern have lost us a year. The stagnation in poverty rates over a long period attests to that,” they said.
“But unlike politics, our lives and those of the poor living among us do not stop,” they added.
Member of Knesset (MK) Ilan Gilon of the Democratic Union criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the harsh findings in the report, blaming his government’s policies for Israel’s poverty.
“Latet’s Poverty Report is a serious indictment against the prime minister. Yet another indictment. The fact that children are forced to give up a meal, and the elderly are forced to give up medicine, is the result of a dangerous and promiscuous economic policy that intentionally forces a quarter of Israelis to live in poverty. Without a structural and fundamental change in policy, this cruel image will not change,” he tweeted.
MK Matan Kahana of the New Right faction said that the Histadrut, Israel’s national workers’ union, is to blame for much of the poverty in the country.
“Everyone talks about poverty, but no one talks about the cost of poverty. How expensive it is to be poor in Israel, and how people can escape poverty. The best way to help the poor is by lowering prices and lowering costs for manufacturers and importers. The main obstacle to this is the Histadrut,” he wrote on Facebook.