One in every four Israelis lives below the poverty line due to economic misfortunes like layoff and payment reductions, AFP reported on Monday. The study ‘Poverty Indices and Social Gaps’, compiled by Israel’s Insurance Institute, reveals that 1.7 million of Israelis are considered to be poor. The overall figure includes more than a third of children.

According to Israeli Social Affairs and Welfare Minister, Isaac Herzog, those affected by adverse economic conditions were mostly Arabs and ultra-orthodox Jews –with a poverty rate hitting 25% of the population in 2009, rising from 23.7% the year before. Children accounted for 36.3%.

Herzog commented over a news conference: ‘In order to join the OECD, the government of Israel made an undertaking to change completely the trend of poverty and unemployment among the two main groups found in poverty.These two groups are our real challenge.’

In spite of the growing poverty levels, Israelis are reportedly living in far better conditions than Palestinians from the occupied territories and the Gaza Strip. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel has noted that most Palestinians in East Jerusalem live below the poverty line, indicating three out of every four children are affected.

In related news, in Gaza, 80% of its population depends on assistance from UN agencies, and unemployment has gone up to above 40%.