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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Interview with President Of Ben Gurion University

Federal News Service (Middle East)
(Note - The following was translated from Hebrew)


ANCHOR: Good morning to the man who was the Head of the University of the Negev, Professor Avishai Braverman.

AVISHAI BRAVERMAN: Good morning Nissim.

ANCHOR: You're already running to work. I just told you good morning.


ANCHOR: Why? Are you already stressed because of the time?

AVISHAI BRAVERMAN: I work from four in the morning until two at night. We still have to gain a lot of mandates before we can form a government.

ANCHOR: Tell me my good friend Avishai Braverman, I want to ask you a question before we talk about party matters.

So how do you like being in politics?

AVISHAI BRAVERMAN: Look, in politics there are two sides. On the one hand, I really enjoyed the primaries, you know beyond all those headlines, when you meet people from the north, from the south, from all over the country. Wonderful people. And you also witness their struggles, and they are telling me that they want a change.

It's not acceptable to them that the country has become so poor, so corrupt, so violent, and this warms the heart. They received me very well.

Today, when I look around, I can see things in politics that are not very nice, as you well know. But my hope is that and people will look at what's important for the party and for the country, and less at their personal desires.

ANCHOR: In short, you're having a good time.

AVISHAI BRAVERMAN: Look, there are some things that I enjoy, and some things that I don't enjoy.

I'm here to accomplish a mission and a goal, and if you take the sweet you have to also take the bitter.

ANCHOR: I understand. Now I'd like to talk with you about what happened yesterday at your press conference, when you presented your economic agenda.

And today you know every party presented its economic agenda, and the average voter who is not an economist, when he opens the newspaper today, this is what he is seeing; Kadima is promising to invest over seven years, 14 billion shekels to reduce poverty.

Bibi (Netanyahu) from the Likud is promising to eliminate the problem of poverty within three years, and you in the Labor Party with Amir Peretz, promise to create within four years, another 400,000 jobs, and the innocent voter is saying, 'Stop trying to fool us.'

What is this, all of a sudden with some kind of magic, you're going to eliminate poverty? All of a sudden the State of Israel is going to be prosperous?

AVISHAI BRAVERMAN: This is an excellent question. First of all it is true that the average voter is confused, making what's being said of little importance. (inaudible) I'm saying it clearly. In Israel today we have the struggle of two world views.

The view of Olmert and Netanyahu, which their government has been presenting in recent years, is a view that says: 'Let's make the rich richer, and the rich will carry the middle class, and the middle class the poorer classes, and a redeemer will come to Zion.'

But this has never happened anywhere in the world. This view has not taken hold in Israel.

The view that we present is a clear view that says the State of Israel will not be like the Republican administration of Bush, where over there things are not working so well, but will adapt the policies of Clinton, of Blair, Sweden and Norway.

What is the central point of the social-democratic view? On the one hand, there will be competition, we will have no inheritance tax or any additional taxes. We will reduce the bureaucracy and our first priority will be the employment of the young and those older people who, to my regret, have not progressed rapidly enough.

ANCHOR: Yes Professor Braverman. I must stop you here.

While I have been talking to you, I received something in writing from Nehemiah Strassler and he says that you are simply presenting a fairytale world. This large sum of 68 billion shekels of government expenses, will be on the account of the Baron (Rothschild) and you are promising an annul growth rate of 5 percent.

AVISHAI BRAVERMAN: But I must tell you, with all due respect for Nehemiah Strassler, with all due respect again, I have explained all this to him and I regret to say that he does not understand. He has his own point of view and he doesn't listen.

Around me I have four of the best economists in Israel; Professor Amir Barnea, Professor Ephriam Tzadkah, David Brodett and Yarom Gabai.

The plan that I am presenting, that we presented yesterday along with Amir Peretz, is a straightforward plan explaining how we will achieve the sum of 68 billion shekels, because each year we will increase the budget by 2 percent in accordance with the population growth, just as they do in Europe. The population growth in Israel is 2 percent. This gives us 50 billion shekels of growth over four years.

In addition we will make drastic cut backs in Judea and Samaria, like Yitzhak Rabin did in his time, and small cutbacks that will not be detrimental over a long period, within the defense industry and the military.

This will give us 68 billion shekels. We will allocate this budget differently, not only to the rich, but to the elderly we will guarantee a retirement benefit. We will increase the minimum wage. We will increase the prescription drugs allotment. We will do all this with wisdom, because we have reached the situation of having become a third world country. Every third child lives in poverty. Every fourth citizen lives in poverty. We are now seeing cab drivers of eighty years old, who are still driving cabs because they have no pension.

The State of Israel has been reduced to a third world country. Look at our Labor Party team. Amir Peretz and myself, we mean what we say and we are reliable people.

ANCHOR: I'm sure you mean what you say. The question is, can this be implemented and can it be done at all?

AVISHAI BRAVERMAN: Look, we are certainly able to achieve a growth rate of 5 percent--

(Cross talk)

I know only one thing in my life, and I was in Brazil, Argentina, Indonesia, Senegal, Kenya, and we were tested by what we saw. If you cut back the bureaucracy and invest in research and development, which the previous government of Olmert and Netanyahu damaged most severely, they damaged the universities and education.

We are not only going to add to education, we are going to bring good news to the Israeli students, to every student, just like Professor Yuli Tamir suggested, that they will not pay tuition. They will receive loans and after four years, when they become an engineer or work in high tech, or become a doctor and make than the average salary, they will pay it back.

And if God forbid they are unemployed, they won't have to. This is how we will maintain the university budgets and improve them.

I'm asking Nehemiah Strassler, where does growth come from? Growth comes from education. It comes from investing in the foundations. If you damage the middle classes and don't invest in education and in health, this will hurt future growth. And all of the economists around me agree that we need to strengthen and invest in the middle and lower classes, and this will give us the chance to grow in time.

ANCHOR: Thank you very much Professor Avishai Braverman.


Federal News Service (Middle East)
02/14/2006 10:07:14 AM EST

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