Category Archives: Newsletter

The Gap – The Truth of How Geography Affects Life in Israel

June 14, 2011

The “equality” on which Israel prides itself changes when one leaves Tel Aviv.  

During the last decade, the gap in the quality of life between Tel Aviv and the “periphery” (North and South) has increased and reached abnormal proportions. 

To address this issue, “The Forum for Government Stability”, spearheaded by The Citizens’ Empowerment Center in Israel (CECI), conducted research on the geographical inequality in Israel for Yediot Jerusalem

This special research revealed concerns in health, education and employment between the regions known as “North” and “South” Israel and the region known as the “center”, which is Tel Aviv.  Based on research findings, we could think of this “periphery” in comparison to Tel Aviv as two different countries even though they are only 2 hours apart.

HEALTH

Both the mortality rates and the percentage of infant mortality in the “periphery” are more than two times higher than in the “center”. The “center” also has more doctors, more dialysis stations, operations, and emergency medicine.  In the “periphery”, there are fewer doctors and 1 out of 200 babies die before reaching their first birthday.

EDUCATION

The gaps in education between the “periphery” and the “center” are not as wide as in the health arena.  However, the gap increases as the children grow older.  Also, the percentage of youths in the “periphery” who participate in the matriculation exams is lower (about 30%) than in the “center”, as well as the number of students who receive university educations.

EMPLOYMENT

In the “periphery”, salaries are lower.  There is a higher unemployment rate than in the “center”, and one third of the people live below the poverty line, which is double the number of people living below the poverty line in the “center”. 

Alon Cohen and Roy Levy, research fellows who searched the data of the Central Bureau of Statistics, stated that what surprised them most was not the gaps between different regions in the country, but the expression given to these trends over time.  “We checked how geographical inequality changed over the last decade, and we found that as a general trend, gaps between the periphery and the center grew larger.  Though the government passed resolutions that should have reduced the gaps, in reality, the situation has not improved.  Their graph shows the percentage differences between the 3 regions in relation to the national average (100%).  Tel Aviv and the “central” districts moved toward the national average, while the “North” and “South” had almost no change.” 

Dr. Matzkin, a lecturer at Beit Berl Academic College and the IDC, states, “It is correct that if the students from the “periphery” participate in the matriculation exams, the gap is small, but the more interesting question is — how many youths in each region participated in the exams; how many dropped out, and how many were told that they should not participate in the exams so they would not destroy the statistics?  Those from both the “periphery” and the “center” who take the exams will pass it with similar scores, but the real question should be – what is the number of youths from each area, who started in a specific year, who will participate in the matriculation exams?  This is the point we need to publish without being afraid, as it reveals the large gap between the “periphery” and the “center”.

Yuval Lipkin, CECI General Director, commented, “The government says that they are trying to attract young people to the “periphery”, but in reality, they are only giving small incentives and not proposing significant benefits.  The government is trying to reduce the “gap”, but it’s mostly providing only short-term solutions.  A Minister appointed to his position knows that his term will be only 1 or 2 years and that there is no long-term policy, therefore he doesn’t have much interest in planning for the future.”

The Forum for Government Stability is lead by prominent businessmen from Israel; among them the philanthropist Izak Parviz Nazarian, Michael Strauss, Amos Shapira, and seniors from academia, including Professor Uriel Reichman and Gideon Doron.

To learn more, contact American Friends of CECI at 310-300-4120.

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The Influence of Government & Electoral System on Education in Israel

June 7th, 2011
 
On June 5, 2011, CECI’s “Forum for Government Stability” and Tel Aviv University co-hosted a conference at Kibbutzim College of Education, Technology and Arts. During the meeting, MK Yisrael Katz, Minister of Transportation and the Chairman of the Governance Committee, called for a change for Israel’s electoral system. He argued that direct elections of the Prime Minister are not enough, and we need to combine a regional element in the system.
 
This conference was a follow up of the May 25, 2011 meeting where Minister Katz addressed the Forum for Government Stability on topics that had been discussed by the Knesset’s Coalition Committee (established by Prime Minister Netanyahu in February).

 The topics included:

  • Examining the Presidential System
  • Increasing the electoral threshold (voter’s threshold)
  • Addressing the idea that the head of the larger party should be Prime Minister
  • The number of MKs that will be needed in order to dissolve the government
  • Comparing elected representatives to appointed ones
Minister Katz commented that the Coalition Committee recommends that the Prime Minister should be able to operate without constraints and the Ministers should be able to implement the policies they’ve decided upon. This would create a climate for a more powerful and stable government. He added that for some issues, such as raising the electoral threshold and the required number of MKs needed to dissolve the government when a “vote of confidence” is necessary, there is a possibility of getting a majority vote and a real chance for reform. This will contribute to a better functioning government system.
 
The June 5th conference participants included prominent individuals from academia and the education field. Also present were Izak Parviz Nazarian (CECI founder), Uri Lubrani, and Uri Dori. Panel member Professor Nimrod Aloni, stated that politicians do not have an interest in having the public be well educated and astute. “Politicians prefer the public to follow them without asking questions.” Aloni proposed to create another authority — a “state education authority” which will determine the educational goals.
 
Former Education Minister, Professor Yuli Tamir, also participated on the panel and stated that education has always been political. “There hasn’t been and will never be neutral education. There is a professional body called the Ministry of Education, and it sets the education policy and content.” MK Raleb Majadele addressed the conference by saying that privatization is a disaster. “Privatization is an open invitation to increase gaps and social alienation of the Israeli society. Crime, increased school dropouts, and violence are part of the social ills created by privatization.” MK Majadele added, “I will not sing the Israeli anthem because it doesn’t mean anything to me. The anthem is Jewish and not Israeli. When the anthem is Israeli, I will be the first one to sing it.”
 
CECI is addressing the connection between the lack of government stability and how it affects different aspects of life. CECI’s General Director, Yuval Lipkin, stated, “This conference is the first cooperation between CECI and the Kibbutzim College.” The goal of the conference was to discuss the connection between government stability and the challenges the education system has confronted during the last decade.
 

Below is the link to an article that was published on the Ynet website:

 

Minister of Transportation Yisrael Katz addressing the conference

From Left to right: Dr. Asaf Matskin, Former Minister of Education Prof. Yuli Tamir, MK Raleb Majadele

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Leaders Speak Up to Remedy Governance Problem

May 27, 2011
 
On May 26, 2011, The Citizens’ Empowerment Center in Israel (CECI) hosted a meeting with the Knesset’s Chairman of the Governance Committee, Minister Israel Katz, as well as Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauzer, and members of “The Forum for Government Stability.”  The Forum was established by CECI, an apolitical, non-profit organization founded by Izak Parviz Nazarian, which promotes education of democracy and leadership, government stability and good citizenship. Meeting participants included:  Izak Parviz Nazarian, Michael Strauss, Amos Shapira, Ron Nachman, Galia Albin, Dan Halutz, MK Einat Wilf, and many others. 
  
Minister Katz briefed the Forum about the issues his Committee has discussed. These issues include: examining the presidential system, raising the electoral threshold (i.e. voter’s threshold), considering the head of the larger party to serve as Prime Minister, the definition of elected representatives vs. appointed ones, and the number of MKs needed to dissolve the government.
  
Minister Katz stated that the Committee desires the Prime Minister to be able to operate without constraints and the Ministers to be able to implement the policies they’ve decided upon. This would create a climate for a more powerful and stable government. Katz contemplated that for some issues, such as raising the electoral threshhold  and the required number of MKs needed to dissolve the government when a “vote of confidence” is necessary, there is a possibility to get a majority vote and thus a real chance to execute changes which will contribute to a better functioning government system.
  
Izak Parviz Nazarian, President and Founder of CECI, voiced concern about Israel’s political instability, while expressing hope that the Knesset’s Governance Committee will help lead to a real transformation of the government and election system.
  
Michael Strauss pointed out that the government system affects many areas of life.  He gave an example of the educational system, which has undergone numerous reforms, but none have been implemented.  Amos Shapira, Cellcom’s CEO, added that the problem is not the fault of the leaders, but of the system.  If the government is not stabilized today, tomorrow will be too late.
  
Ron Nachman, Ariel’s Mayor, introduced the Municipal Electoral System as stable and effective, and he added that local Authorities are the “operational arms” of the Executive Authority.  He strongly recommended that the government adopt a similar system. 
  
According to CECI’s General Director Yuval Lipkin, “Together with the Governance Committee, the purpose of this meeting is to promote government stability. The problem of governance has become the biggest enemy of Israeli democracy, and it affects all aspects of life for every resident in the country.  Long-term programs are not promoted, and sometimes they are not planned at all, simply because the Ministers are replaced so quickly without completing important reforms in health, education, and, in fact, any field.”
  
For more information, please visit —
 
 
 
 

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“We Will Use Our Position to Push for Change”

April 6, 2011

“We are fed up!” is a sentence that has been heard many times from many Israelis. However, as time is passing, it seems that the management of the country is getting worse. Economic leaders, who are used to effective methods of management, require stability and continuity, and they believe that the chronic political upheavals are a danger to Israel’s impressive economic achievements. For that reason, unlike their usual tendency to stay away from politically connected initiatives, now they are supporting electoral and government changes. This past week, businessmen Nochi Dankner, Dan Propper and Gazi Kaplan have joined the long-standing Forum that is addressing finding alternatives to the current government system. The new members are uniting their efforts with veteran Forum members Avaraham Bigger, Yehudit Bronicki, Amos Shapira, Michael Strauss and many others.

For the last 8 years, “The Forum for Government Stability in Israel” – a non-political initiative founded by Izak Nazarian – has been promoting electoral change to strengthen the government and achieve greater stability and continuity, in order to effectively implement long-term planning. Israel’s chronic government instability and concern for the future has prompted great enthusiasm within the Forum. The country has undergone so many changes that it’s hard to remember, at any given moment, the name of the Minister of Infrastructure, the Minister of Education, or the Minister of Communication.

Michael Strauss, one of the owners of Strauss Group, understood that the government system must be changed when he saw how education reforms were dropped. His interest, he maintains, is not connected to business. “I think that a captain needs to manage the ship, and he needs to take good officers. Otherwise, he will not get anywhere.”

Amos Shapira, the Executive Director of Cellcom, emphasized that the current government management style is weak. Shapira is cautious not to give the impression that businessmen want to replace politicians. “I have no political aspirations to join the movement to change the government system. I believe that the need to change the government is apolitical. There is wide agreement that something is not functioning. The current system does not allow any leader, no matter who is in power, to effectively manage the country.

When I look at Israel’s political leaders, ‘across the board’ and compare them to leaders from other Western countries, I do not feel any inferiority. I don’t think we need to be ashamed. No one is perfect. It is true that Israel’s challenges are more complicated, but we have skilled people to handle the challenges.”

“The politicians change frequently,” Shapira added. “How can you work with such a rapid exchange of leaders? Don’t focus on the Prime Ministers who cannot finish their terms, look at the Ministers.

Avraham Bigger, Chairman of Makhteshim Agan, is worried about the lack of consistency he sees in the management of the government. “There is no continuity or long-term focus on issues. ‘Zigzagging’ is very bad for management. You need to mark a ‘North Star’ and walk to this light with the least amount of deviation as possible. Movements forward, back, and to the side don’t help the country achieve its goals. We need to manage differently. Israel is a first-class country. There are amazing people, initiators, and a great amount of brainpower per capita. We need to stick to long-term goals to get better results.”

Professor Gideon Doron stated that he is not only concerned with government instability, but also with one of its ramifications, which is the danger that we will lose our democracy. “We are the only country in the world, except Slovakia, which has an election system where the whole country is one proportional region in the elections.”

Big Business vs. Government

There are good people with good intentions, but it is natural to have concerns about possible hidden agendas when business people push for government reform which would benefit them. Michael Strauss is offended by this. “I am so sad. I don’t have a personal agenda, but I am offended every time this concern arises. Why write about me and defame me? It is terrible when you defame people who are doing good things. It is probably better to stand on the sidelines so people will not defame you. It hurts when people behave in this way, especially when one employs thousands of people, and yet you are criticized from morning to night.”

Avraham Bigger is not concerned about this issue. “To a great extent, big business vs. government is just a phrase. I don’t think there is a place in the world, where senior businessmen don’t talk with political authorities. It happens in every country of the world. We are just a small country where everything is magnified. There are good-willed people who want to dedicate their time and experience. We don’t come from a place of hidden agendas, but we feel that we need to act so Israel will be a better place.

Offer Peri, the Executive Director of 012 Smile, is one of the supporters of the Forum for Government Stability. “The government’s main problem is not the risk of losing our democracy, it is the lack of the ability to make effective decisions. That is why I would prefer to examine the possibility of some kind of a presidential system. The State of Israel has huge potential to be one of the richest countries in the world. I don’t say this from my business perspective, but from being an Israeli citizen – the Israeli system of government is one of the major obstacles preventing the country from reaching this potential.”

The Vision of Nazarian

This week, the Forum for Government Stability received renewed attention regarding its ongoing initiatives due to the support of newly joined economic leaders. The Forum was established by Izak Nazarian and spearheaded by his apolitical organization, The Citizens’ Empowerment Center in Israel (CECI) which promotes government stability and education of democracy, leadership, and good citizenship.

In an interview with “Globes”, Nazarian displayed a sound understanding of Israel’s current political troubles, despite the fact that he hasn’t lived in Israel for many years. He is grieved by the gap between what Israel is and what it could be with better professional management. Nazarian is very dedicated to the vision of changing the government system. “I have the honor to say I am an Israeli, and I am very proud that I am a part of the Jewish nation. I have learned much from what I’ve studied here and what I have seen in America.”

How much more successful would we be, if we were managed more effectively?

“We want to ensure that there will be fewer changes in the government. We want a more stable government. A Minister in Israel needs to serve his full term of 4 years so he has time to do his work. There have been a great number of Minister changes throughout the years. This instability damages Israel’s economic relationships.”

The Executive Director of CECI and the Forum for Government Stability, Yuval Lipkin, clearly defines Nazarian’s vision, “The governance problem is an existential problem. The lack of ability to build roads, to solve health problems, to adapt to modern approaches in company management, etc. heavily costs Israeli citizens and gives the impression that society is rapidly going downhill, if it has not already crashed.

The daughter of Nazarian, Dora Kadisha, is also very active in Nazarian’s vision. “The question is how to enable the Ministers and Prime Minister to work more effectively. We see the problem in lack of planning for the water shortage in Israel, the Carmel fire, and peace initiatives, We suffer from lack of government stability no matter who is the Prime Minister”.

For Nazarian, the main message is to adopt other systems of management which will allow “sowing and reaping”. Kadisha commented, “How can a Minister initiate a vision or idea and start to plan, when we know that immediately after him, another person will come along with different ideas? The same is true with education. There have been 6 Ministers of Education during the last 10 years, as well as 10 Ministers of Infrastructure. We can only imagine how much more successful Israel would be – Israel would be among the most successful countries in the world – if we were managed more effectively.”

Written By — Ami Brand, Ella Levi-Vinriv and Einav Ben Yehuda

To read the complete article, please click the following link:

 http://www.globes.co.il/news/article.aspx?did=1000635065

 

 

 

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Nochi Dankner Joins “Forum For Government Stability in Israel”

On March 28, 2011, Israeli Globes Newspaper reported that businessmen Nochi Dankner, Avraham Biger, Dan Propper, Gazi Kaplan, and Executive Director of Ormat, Yehudit Bronicki, have joined “The Forum for Government Stability in Israel” in efforts to change the government system to allow the government to serve for 4 consecutive years.

The newcomers to the Forum join a large group of experts from the academic and business world including: Professor Uriel Reichman, philanthropist Izak Parviz Nazarian, Elisha Yanai, Amos Shapira, and Michael Strauss.

Other new Forum members include: Executive Director of the Toto – Offer Peri, President of the Chamber of Commerce – Uriel Lin, Head of Adjutant General Branch – Major General Elazar Stern, CEO of Clal Credit and Financing – Esti Friedman and CEO of Dapei Zahav Group – Nir Lampert.

During the last few months, the Forum has been able to initiate discussions between different political parties. Discussions have sparked a general agreement that the parties will continue to promote legislative changes to strengthen the government and the Prime Minister by increasing the number of votes needed to dissolve the government through a motion of “no confidence”.

Additionally, Forum members will consider the possibility of adopting “direct elections.” This will be done in an improved system, utilizing the lessons learned from the direct elections held between 1996-2001. The direct elections at that time harmed the larger parties and garnered harsh public and political criticism.

“The Forum for Government Stability in Israel” was founded by Nazarian and spearheaded by CECI, a non-political organization that promotes education for democracy, government stability and good citizenship.

According to the Executive Director of CECI and the Forum, Yuval Lipkin, “The problem of governance has become the biggest enemy of Israel’s democracy, and it harms every aspect of life for Israeli citizens. Long-term government programs are not being promoted, nor implemented because Ministers change so rapidly. Thus, important reforms in areas such as health and education are never realized.  Mr. Lipkin stated that it is impossible for public representatives to effectively manage elections every 2 years, therefore they will be increasingly dependent and focused on private donations, instead of being focused on their constituents and public interests. 

By Lilach Weisman – To read the complete article, please click:

http://www.globes.co.il/news/article.aspx?did=1000633892

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Knesset Welcomes Winners of “Siach Ve Sig”, HS Debate Competition

March 24, 2011

Knesset Welcomes Winners of “Siach Ve Sig”  
High School Debate Competition

On March 23, 2011, the Israeli Knesset welcomed the 2011 student winners from Tel Aviv’s Ironi Dalet and Hod Hasharon’s Hadarim High Schools, along with all the participating teachers of CECI’s debate program “Siach Ve Sig”.

While at the Knesset, the students observed a discussion in the Knesset plenum, visited the Knesset library and watched the discussions of various committees. The Speaker of the Knesset, MK Reuven (Ruby) Rivlin, greeted the students and the teachers, congratulating them on their commendable achievements in the “Siach Ve Sig” Competition.

 The highlight of the Knesset visit was a meeting with Minister of Education MK Gideon Sa’ar. Minister Sa’ar spoke with the students on issues related to education, democracy, and civic participation. The Minister explained the importance of the program “Siach Ve Sig” as an educational tool in promoting students’ rhetorical abilities. He added that during the next academic year, the debate program will expand and include hundreds of high schools in Israel.

The Knesset visit concluded with an exciting presentation, where the “Siach Ve Sig” winners received medals from the Minister of Education Gideon Sa’ar.

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MK Gamliel Promotes Reforms For Women and Political System

March 18, 2011

 MK Gamliel Promotes Reforms For Women and Political System

On March 15, 2011, The American Friends of CECI coordinated a reception for over 100 Israelis, hosted by Yona and Ezra Levi at their residence in Encino, California. The event took place in honor of Member of Knesset Gila Gamliel – Israel’s Deputy Minister for the Advancement of Young People, Students and Women.

The evening’s program commemorated Yom Ha Isha (Women’s Day). It began with a short video followed by American Friends of CECI Board Member Gal Ben-Naim, who talked briefly about CECI’s mission and educational projects in Israel. Illana Shoshan Diamant, former Miss Israel, served as the MC.

MK Gamliel discussed the revolution she hopes to implement regarding women’s status and young people. As a young energetic mother herself, she highlighted the fact that women are currently misrepresented in the Knesset. Today, only 6 out of the 13 political parties in Israel are represented by women. Out of 120 Parliament members, there are only 23 women. Additionally, out of 29 Ministers, there are only 3 women, and only 5 women serve on the municipality level out of 255. Gamliel stressed, “Once we have more women in key positions, things will change. There are not many young women in the political system. I am focusing on advancing the sector of young women.”

MK Gamliel also addressed the problems young people in Israel are facing after their army services. After finishing the military service, many do not have a future plan in place and the State does not help them. Consequently, she proposed a law which would provide one year of free study for individuals who finish their military service and maternity leave for female students who give birth while at the university.

Emphasizing the need for government stability in Israel, MK Gamliel stated that during its 63 year history, Israel has had 32 governments. She confessed that the present system is not working. Today in Israel, in order to establish a government you need a coalition, but smaller parties often end up having more power than is appropriate for their size. She mentioned that Prime Minister Netanyahu appointed Minister Israel Katz to re-examine alternatives for electoral reform in the Knesset’s Committee for Examination of Government Systems and Governance in Israel.

In closing, MK Gamliel stressed, “In Israel, there is a serious problem of governments not being able to finish their full term.” She blessed CECI’s efforts in serving as a catalyst to help pave the way for a stronger, more stable government system.

“You are doing a holy work,” she exclaimed. 

 

MK Gila Gamiel

(from left to right) WEF Co-founder Illana Shoshan Diamant, CECI Treasurer Gal Ben-Naim, MK Gila Gamiel, and hosts Yona and Ezra Levi

 

This is event was held in collaboration with Women’s Empowerment Foundation, co-founded by Illana Shoshan Diamant.
Women's Empowerment Foundation 

 

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