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Israelis fear economic collapse more than Iran: study
by Staff Writers
Jerusalem (AFP) Dec 17, 2012


Three-quarters of Israelis see social and economic collapse in the Jewish state as more of a threat than Iran's disputed nuclear programme, a charity said on Monday.

In its Alternative Poverty Report for 2012, food charity Latet -- Hebrew for "to give" -- said poverty and social inequality were the main concerns of most Israelis, followed by education, with national security only in third place.

"Seventy-five percent of the general public believe that a socio-economic crash threatens Israel more than the Iranian threat," said a summary of the report, which did not give numbers polled or a margin of error for its figures.

Published on Sunday, it comes ahead of a January 22 general election in Israel, which fears arch foe Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon, although Tehran insists its atomic programme is for peaceful purposes.

The report said half of the children at homes receiving welfare were obliged to work to help boost income, up from 19 percent last year, and 10 percent resorted to begging on the streets, compared with three percent a year earlier.

More than half of respondents said they had been forced to buy less food this year because of their financial situation, with 15 percent working in more than one job and 18 percent in debt to their bank.

"This report provides evidence that poverty and social inequality have become permanent features of the Israeli landscape," Latet president Gilles Darmon told AFP on Monday.

"We cannot say that it is a temporary phenomenon as it is has existed for over 10 years now."

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Sunday that the Israeli government's forecasts for economic growth in 2013 and 2014 were 3.5 percent and 3.9 percent respectively.

In its latest report on Israel published in April 2012, the International Monetary Fund said despite its high growth rate, the country had one of the highest rates of poverty out of the OECD's 35 member states.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development said Israel's high poverty rate was largely due to exceptional unemployment among Arab Israelis and ultra-Orthodox Jews.

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