Israel Second Most Unequal Developed Economy
Even so, this high level of inequality is damaging for the chances of Israel's most free market oriented politician, Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu, whose limited free market reforms of Israel's statist economy during his previous terms as Prime Minister and Finance Minister, is widely blamed for the widening income inequality. But without further free market reforms, Israel will not be able to significantly raise its currently relatively low level of per capita income, which is less than half of that in the United States.
The primary cause of both the high level of inequality, the high level of government spending and the low level of per capita income is that significant porions of the Israeli population consists of families where there is only one who works outside the home, usually in a low-paying job (at best, but particularly among ultra-Orthodox Jews it is common for the father to be living off the state as well), while the mother takes care of the very many children. These families are mostly Arabs or ultra-Orthodox Jews. Now, if these families simply made a choice with their own money to abstain from a high level of material standard of living in favor of having a large family there would be nothing wrong with that. But the problem is that the Arab and ultra-Orthodox Jewish voters vote for and receive massive subsidies from the economically productive secular Jewish parts of Israel, something which greatly inhibits Israel's growth potential and makes Israel anything but appealing for gifted Jews (of which there are quite a lot), something which in turn of course means that Israel's economy will operate far beloe potential. One illustration of this point is that both of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's sons have emigrated from Israel (one lives in New York, the other in Paris).
So even though the level of relative poverty among Israel's Arabs and ultra-Orthodox Jews is basically self-chosen within the context of a welfare state which allows them to live off the productive work of others, it is used as a argument against cutting back on that welfare state.