UPDATES 9 am Israel time, Sunday, November 3 2013:
*Political infighting in Israel has continued unabated since the terrorist murderer release last week. Tzipi Livni has mounted a campaign to force Naftali Bennett’s Bayit Yehudi party (which bitterly opposed the release) out of the government and to encourage the Labor Party of Shelly Yachimovich to take its place.
Bennett, however, shows no sign of succumbing to Livni’s harsh rhetoric, and Yachimovich issued this statement yesterday: “A clear road sign for the party that it should reconsider entering the government will be when the Bayit Yehudi leaves the Coalition because of a diplomatic agreement that is truly on its way to implementation.”
Let’s hope that day never comes.
By the way, the Labor Party is having its primary this week, and Yachimovich is fighting for her political life against Yitzhak Herzog.
**An event of major political importance is occurring this week in Israel which far exceeds the above description of Israeli political infighting. At 9:00 am on Wednesday, a three-judge panel will finally issue a verdict in the case of Israeli FM Avigdor Lieberman--a case that has dragged on for more than a decade.
As you may not remember, Lieberman was indicted 11 months ago in an extremely complicated case for allegedly using his power as foreign minister to promote Israel’s former ambassador to Latvia, Ze’ev Ben Aryeh, as a reward for Aryeh giving him some details of a corruption case against Lieberman (a case that was later dismissed).
There are 3 possible verdicts:
1) acquittal–which would mean that Lieberman would return to the Foreign Ministry the next day (Netanyahu has held the position of Foreign Minister “in waiting” for Lieberman pending the results of the trial).
2) guilty–with the finding that Lieberman’s guilt involves “moral turpitude”. Even if the Court rules that Lieberman does not have to go to prison, he would have to resign from the Knesset and not be able to return for 7 years. This result would throw Israeli politics into turmoil because Lieberman’s party Yisrael Beiteinu–currently merged with Netanyahu’s Likud–would likely deteriorate overnight, and the ruling coalition might be severely destabilized.
3) guilty–but without “moral turpitude.” This would have the same result as acquittal. Lieberman would be back as Foreign Minister on Thursday.
Stay tuned for further details.
As regular readers of this blog know, your humble servant has been concerned over the last year with the emigration of Israelis out of Israel in general and the Israeli brain drain in particular. The “left-leaning” Israeli media has actually been broadcasting television programs and printing newspaper articles enticing Israelis to move abroad with tales of the good life to be found in places like Berlin, London, Canada, and the United States.
We have even had the unseemly spectacle of some Israeli politicians such as Finance Minister Yair Lapid telling people that life outside of Israel is much to be preferred over life here.
Yesterday, the Jerusalem Post published an article by Mati Wagner which suggests that current Israeli concern about yordim (people leaving the country) is exaggerated. Here are some of his statistics:
*On an annual basis in recent years, approximately 22,500 Israelis left the country each year for a period of one year or longer. Of these 22,500 who leave, approximately 8,500 return.
*On an annual basis in recent years, approximately 17,000 new immigrants come to Israel–primarily from Russia, the United States, France, and Ethiopia.
When you consider these two statistics together, there is a net gain in citizens–a “positive migration rate.”
Some other interesting numbers from Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics:
*Between Israel’s rebirth in 1948 through 2011, 690,000 Israelis left Israel and did not return. A large percentage of these Israelis were Russian immigrants. For example of the 230,000 Israelis who left Israel between 1990 and 2005 (largely during the murderous Palestinian suicide bombings), 110,000 were Russians who had immigrated to Israel. Between 1948 and 2011, another 100,000 were Israeli-Arabs. It is further estimated that of the 690,000 who have left, 145,000 have now died.
*As large as the number of Russians who have left appears to be, Israel’s overall retention rate among new immigrants is 90%. To put this astounding number in context, the retention rate in the United States of new immigrants is only about 70% and in the U.K. around 60%.
*Insofar as the native born Israelis is concerned, the emigration rate is 5.85%–which is lower than the emigration rate of countries such as Finland, Greece, Austria, New Zealand, Ireland, Switzerland, the United Kingdom–and a host of other countries in the West.
*On the issue of the brain drain, Wagner points out that it is not that Israelis want to leave the country, it is simply that many of the top academic researchers and professionals cannot find jobs here: “Israel, a tiny country, produces the largest number of scientists and engineers per capita of any country in the world. But there are simply not enough positions to go around for all of these talented and well-trained individuals.” And the important fact is that once out of the country, many of these scientists and engineers and their families are constantly looking for ways to return.
Wagner’s overall conclusion is simply this:
“Amazingly, despite Israel’s high rate of foreign born–who make up 40% of the population–despite grim prospects for a lasting political settlement with the Palestinians and a problematic security situation, and despite Israel’s relatively small economy, a surprisingly high percentage of Israelis decide to remain in the Jewish state.”
Paraphrasing the words of the old song, there’s no place like home for the Jewish people.