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Gabbay Goes for Gold, Israel Works, Holy B-Ball

Israeli Opposition Bets on Millionaire to Take it Back to Power

John Reed, Financial Times, August 21st 2017


Newly elected opposition leader Avi Gabbay is positioning himself as the credible alternative to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “It doesn’t matter if you are from the right side or the left side; people want to be unified again,” said Gabbay.

The Context:

  • Gabbay was raised in a Jerusalem transit camp for Jewish immigrants. After working in the finance ministry, Gabbay became CEO of Bezeq, Israel’s largest telecommunications group, and held the post of Environment Minister in Netanyahu’s coalition. He resigned in May 2016 to protest Avigdor Lieberman’s appointment as Defense Minister.

  • The next Israeli election is scheduled for 2019 however; Gabbay believes a vote could happen as early as next year in light of the multiple corruption probes currently plaguing Netanyahu.

  • The Labor Party (now known as the Zionist Union) led Israel from its founding through the late 70’s, successfully navigating the country through existential wars and expanding Israel’s military capabilities [1]. Labor has not led a government since 2001.

  • Gabbay’s platform calls for taking care of “Dimona and not just Amona,” a reference to a working-class town in southern Israel and an illegal West Bank outpost whose fate recently monopolized political debate among Netanyahu’s coalition. Gabbay backs a two-state solution as well as a wholly owned Jerusalem.

  • To the chagrin of party bureaucrats, Gabbay proposed new bylaws in the Zionist Union charter that would allow him to unilaterally choose his party’s candidates for the next Knesset and allocate funds for initiatives that he deems essential for the next race [2]. Any changes must be approved by the party conference, scheduled to convene on September 4th [3].

Conversation Points:

  • How did a party once run by eastern European socialists fall into the hands of a Moroccan capitalist?

  • If Gabbay is successful in changing Labor’s bylaws might that affect the checks and balances necessary for a democratic process?

  • What explains why the Israeli public has rejected a Labor led government for over 15 years?

Israel's Unemployment Rate Falls to Lowest Rate in Decades

Hagai Amit, Haaretz, August 21st 2017


Israel’s unemployment rate dropped to 4.1% in July making it the lowest jobless rate seen in decades. “We are still fighting to push the figure below 4%, even though 4% is an amazing figure we haven’t seen in decades [4],” said Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon.

The Context:

  • The 4.1% rate represents 164,000 unemployed [5] and is the lowest since the Bank of Israel staring tracking the metric in 1995. The rate fell despite an increase in the number of Israelis in the labor force actively looking for work.

  • Netanyahu lauded the numbers as “proof that [Israel’s] economic policy is working [6]" while Kahlon attributed the success to Israel’s investment in “factories, companies, hi-tech and creating jobs.”

  • A 2016 report found that over 1 million Israeli children live under the poverty line, as do 36% of single Israeli mothers [7]. The survey examined 1,100 people from the general public [8].

Conversation Points:

  • Do low unemployment rates always reflect responsible economic policy?

  • What do Israel’s considerable poverty numbers say about the quality of jobs available?

NBA Heads to the Holy Land to Develop Talent, Promote Values

Josef Federman, Associated Press, August 13th 2017


The NBA’s 16th edition of Basketball without Borders (BWB) took place in Netanya [9] to bring together the top emerging talent from across Europe.

The Context:

  • The delegation, led by Commissioner Adam Silver, aims to give players who have a chance of going pro the opportunity “to develop as an elite player at a relatively young age.”

  • The 60 Under-17 players from across Europe will participate and train under current and former NBA players and coaches, including Israel's Omri Casspi, a member of the champion Golden State Warriors, the only active NBA player from Israel and a former participant of BWB [10].

  • The NBA’s global reach has increased in recent years with its games now broadcasted in 215 countries. The league holds pre-season games in China, regular season games in London & Mexico and broadcasts afternoon games on weekends to make them easier to watch in overseas time zones.

Conversation Points:

  • Do shared interests, in this case basketball, help people see how much they really do have in common?


  1. Gabbay’s win has significant implications, As’ad Abdul Rahman, Gulf News, August 11th 2017

  2. NEW LABOR LEADER SEEKS SWEEPING POWERS, Gil Hofman, Jerusalem Post, August 20th 2017

  3. Israel's New Labor Party Head Seeks Changes in Bylaws to Cement His Power, Chaim Levinson, Haaretz, August 21st 2017

  4. Kahlon boasts record-low unemployment rate, TPS, August 22nd 2017 said Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon.

  5. Israel unemployment rate at historic low, Mordechai Sones, August 21st 2017

  6. Ibid.

  7. Report shows 2.4 million civilians in Israel live in poverty, i24news, December 12th 2016

  8. Alternative poverty report: Almost a third of Israelis are poor, Omri Efraim, Ynetnews, December 12th 2016 [8]

  9. Israel hosts Basketball without Borders Europe, Abigail Klein Leichman, Israel21c, August 13th 2017

  10. Ibid.

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