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A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman

Aug 30, 2009 Olmert Indicted, Leviov Almost Bankrupt, Shalit Deal Stalls, The Future Face of Education in Israel

The Israeli news today was dominated by three items. The first was the decision of the Israel’s attorney general to indict former Prime Minister Olmert on a whole series of corruption and tax evasions charges. The decision to go ahead with the indictments was expected and it relates to three cases, the first issue is the Rishon Tours case where Olmert is accused of double billing various overseas charities and then using the difference for personal travel. The second issue in the case of the money Olmert received from Talanksy and the third relates to actions he took relating to the Center for Investment. All of these cases have been under investigation for years and the reason it took so long to indict remains a mystery. Israel was forced to have a Prime Minister who everyone assumed was corrupt in office for two years while the investigation continued. Now Israel has to live with a Minister of Foreign Relations who everyone knows is corrupt. Hopefully it will not have to wait until after Lieberman leaves office to indict him.

The second news story was economic. Israel Africa Corporation headed by Lev Leviov, announced that it would not be able to meet its debt obligations. That should not come as a great surprise as it owes a mind popping 22 billion shekels and invested heavily in real estate in all the wrong places. Over the last year and a half the corporation announced losses of over a billion dollars. The announcement sent the Israeli stock market that has recently been soaring into a tailspin.

The third news item was the announcement by Prime Minister Netanyahu that a release of Gilad Shalit was not about the happen any time soon. The Hamas made a similar statement. The Arab world was full of articles over the last week that the release would happen any moment. Those stories were fueled by the fact that that the Germans had become the negotiators for the talks. Israel supposedly made a new proposal. Hamas ended the speculation that talks were proceeding by reiterating its starting terms for Shalit’s release. Hamas is not willing to compromise at all.

The most disturbing piece I heard however, was the release of a report on the future demographics the Israel education system. Th e Arab and the Haredi portion are heading to become over 50% within ten years. In the year 2000 they represented 39% of the kids entering first grade and they now represent 45%. The implications of this are ultimately staggering. Leaving aside the societal questions and what sort of country is Israel becoming, from an educational perspective alone, the future is dark indeed unless massive changes take place. At the moment the Israeli educational system ranks in the bottom rankings of the OECD countries in terms of educational achievement- the Arab schools average 14% below that, which is on par with many 3rd world countries. The Haredi sector does not take the test at all, since they are unprepared to do so.

Thus, if these demographic prediction end up being true, Israel will be turning out a majority of its students that will be totally unprepared for global competition. Today 75% of the Haredi population of working age is unemployed, while many by choice, but most are nearly unemployable due to their total lack of preparation.

Tie all this to the demonstrations in Jerusalem yesterday in which a significant number of demonstrators were arrested, only to be released today with the most minor of penalties (two weeks ago those arrested were forced to be away from Jerusalem for one Shabbat as punishment). If Israel does not take the actions necessary – on the judicial side punish the demonstrators who attack police the way deserve - maybe a year in jail, and unless the state forces the Haredi school to teach a core secular curriculum, due to a lack of political will and the shortsighted political craving for support from Haredi parties the country is committing long-term political suicide. =0 A

On another note, please read the review I have just posted on the book "Myths, Illusions and Peace" by Dennis Ross and David Makovsky. It is an important book and if you cannot read the, simply read the review.

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