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Israeli Lawmakers Care About Their Happiness

Maariv, Israel, July 7

Only six months ago, we were all elated when the UN’s 2019 World Happiness Report ranked Israel 13th out of 156 countries, indicating that Israelis are happier than their counterparts in places like Britain, Germany and the United States. A similar study conducted by Columbia University and Gallup pointed to similar findings. However, there is no doubt that the absolute happiness of Israelis has plummeted. It is hard to believe that only a few months ago, about 89% of Israelis aged 20 or older expressed a high level of satisfaction with their quality of life, citing their country’s extensive social-support networks and affordable health care. It is quite unfortunate that these findings did not stand before the eyes of our political decision-makers when this pandemic began, especially since these two factors – social solidarity and adequate health care – should be at the heart of the government’s policy in combating coronavirus. The way in which the Netanyahu government is handling the crisis is destroying the fragile fabric of Israeli society and sending these rankings down the drain. For example, a recent study indicated that Israel is one of five countries with the highest rate of inequality among OECD states. Obviously, this inequality will only continue to grow in the aftermath of the pandemic given the government’s vague and confusing approach to curb the spread of the disease. It might be hard to admit, but the truth is that this pandemic revealed that our prime minister and his cabinet members care more about their own happiness and well-being than those of the general Israeli population. Israelis’ self-reported happiness levels will continue to drop unless the government finally understands that words alone will not improve the situation. The way in which Israeli elected officials treat the public as a liability, instead of working for these constituents, will only exacerbate the situation. – Yair Bar Kol (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)