Bottom line: Israel’s trade balance expanded very sharply in March, to a level of $1.8bn, after only $135m in February. In fact, both figures are distorted due to huge volatility in diamond exports. Looking at the first quarter of 2014 as a whole, the overall deficit increased by some $200m compared with the first quarter of 2013, but after excluding ships, aircraft, diamonds and fuels, the ‘core’ deficit increased sharply, by over $1.2bn, from a surplus of $618m in Q1 2013, to a deficit of $613m in Q1 2014.
Bottom line: The fiscal situation continues to improve, and the first quarter ended with a surplus of NIS78m — an insignificant sum, but a very significant improvement over the NIS 4.7bn deficit in the first quarter of 2013. The details of the government’s revenue streams suggest that the economy is still growing and employment is continuing to expand. However, the improvement rests on higher-than-expected revenues, while spending is running ahead of target.
The geo-political picture in the Middle East has become far more complex and opaque since the wave of revolutions and civil wars began at the end of 2010. But at least these events emerged from within the countries in the region. Outside powers — the US, Russia, Western European countries and others — have surely been active in these upheavals, but they have been reacting to them, seeking to influence or control the domestic forces at work. .
Now, however, a new state of affairs is taking shape, wherein major events outside the region will have significant — perhaps even decisive — influence over intra-regional issues, disputes and developments. The crisis in and over Ukraine/ Crimea and the consequent confrontation between the US and EU on the one side, and Russia — possibly supported by China and India, on the other — is not likely to be resolved soon, and may well intensify. This revival of global tension is certain to impact all the various conflicts underway across the Middle East.
A fascinating aspect of the debate that erupted around the latest proposals to bring down housing prices in Israel was the underlying assumption – made explicit by some interviewees in some of the programs and articles – that people, especially young couples, have a right to own their own home.
Even in the context of the rights-oriented modern era, this is remarkable, while the corollary – which is that governments have an obligation to assist people (and especially young couples) to realise their inherent right to own a home – is nothing less than a recipe for national bankruptcy. In the unlikely event of a country surviving the consequences of its citizens’ supposed right to have rapid access to ALL the available medical technology, services and products that modern science can generate, it will surely be doomed by any attempt to facilitate the right to own your own home.
“Hummbling’ is a term I invented for the specific purpose of describing the current state of the Israeli economy. It has nothing to do with modesty or other personal traits, but rather represents a hybrid form of ‘humming’ and ‘bumbling’ – hence the double m. You would think that to simultaneously hum along whilst bumbling around would be very difficult, if not outright impossible – but you would be wrong.
The world is locked into a ‘1984’ mode, in which the mass of people – the sheeple – are ruthlessly manipulated by the controlling elite into patterns of behavior and thought that are designed to keep them usefully productive or, failing that, then at least quiescent. The main tool for this is, of course, the mainstream media, which keep the sheeple’s addled minds focused on drivel and trivia, thereby preventing any possibility that they might ask the wrong questions and reach the wrong conclusions.
This week has seen multiple examples of this process at work.
The financial markets around the globe gyrated this week in line with the crisis in the Crimean Peninsula and the wider Ukrainian imbroglio. That is as it should be, and the recent spate of articles and programs about 1914 — marking the start of what is likely to be a prolonged media focus on the centennial of the First World War — provided an ideal backdrop for heightened concern about crises in Eastern Europe.
However, for most Europeans, and surely all Russians — but surely not most Americans — Crimea resonates for reasons that have nothing to do with the First World War, or even the Second for that matter, during which Stalin expelled the peninsula’s ethnic inhabitants. For Russians, British, French and anyone who is obliged to learn European history in high school, Crimea is a noun that is synonymous with war, as in ‘the Crimean War’.
The key concept underlying the Purim story – highlighted by the critical word in Megillat Esther – is “contrariwise”. Everything turns out to be the opposite of what it had seemed or had been intended. That much is clear from the narrative of the megillah but, beyond the principle, little of the detail and almost nothing of the forces at work is spelled out. Probably because it was written and distributed within the Persian Empire, the megillah’s authors self-censored and made sure that numerous sensitive topics were only hinted at.
Bottom line: The deficit on trade in goods shrank sharply in February and for January-February. This was mainly due to a surge in exports of polished diamonds in February. More generally, the rate of increase in exports is slowing and of imports has reached zero.
(Was Originally Published at Knowlegde@Wharton)
The entire panoply of medical metaphors for dire situations could be effectively deployed to describe the current plight of Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, but any discussion of the crisis at Hadassah must perforce begin with a harsh legal term: Hadassah is the first hospital in Israel to be made subject to a stay of legal proceedings. In corporate jargon, that means that it is in Chapter 11.
By agreeing, on February 11, to the joint request made by the hospital’s management and the Ministry of Health to impose this status, Jerusalem District Court Judge David Mintz accepted that , to revert to medical terminology, the situation was critical and unstable and the ‘patient’ would die without this emergency procedure. By preventing creditors from taking action against Hadassah and by appointing a trustee to oversee the negotiations between management and staff over a recovery program , the judge was creating a 90-day window of opportunity to save Hadassah.
But how have things come to this pass? And, now that they have, what is the prognosis? What course of treatment might restore Hadassah at least to functionality and, ideally, to full health? Or is it, as some claimed, too late – and the plug should be pulled on the famous and venerable institution?