“NEXT TUESDAY is Election Day,” then-Republican presidential candidate Ronald
Reagan famously said in his final debate with then-president Jimmy Carter on
October 28, 1980.
“Next Tuesday all of you will go to the polls and stand
there in the polling place and make a decision. I think when you make that
decision it might be well if you ask yourself ‘Are you better off than you were
four years ago? Is it easier for you to go and buy things in the stores than it
was four years ago? Is there more or less unemployment in the country than there
was four years ago? Is America as respected throughout the world as it was?’”
Reagan continued, “If you answer all those questions yes, why then I think your
choice is very obvious as to who you will vote for. If you don’t agree, if you
don’t think that this course that we have been on for the last four years is
what you would like to see us follow for the next four, then I could suggest
another choice that you have.”
And with those few sentences Reagan gave
birth to a campaign slogan that has been heard ever since by incumbents and
challengers running for office in every nook and cranny around the world. You
can hear it in stump speeches given by those running for prime minister of New
Zealand, chancellor of Germany, president of the United States.
course, you can also hear it in Israel.
The “Are you better off now than
four years ago?” theme dominated the speeches both Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu and opposition head Shaul Mofaz delivered to the Knesset on October
15, firing off their opening salvos in the current election
“Four years ago we received an economy that was in crisis with
negative growth,” Netanyahu said, arguing that life now is better here than it
was when he took the reins. “Four years ago thousands of missiles and rockets
fell on the citizens of Israel.” He talked about a flood of migrants coming over
the Egyptian border then, as opposed to now. He talked about how the Iranian
issue was not on the international agenda then, as it is now. He talked about
how tens of thousands of new jobs have been created now, as opposed to
And on and on.
Then Mofaz took the Knesset podium, and day
became night; sweet became bitter; good became bad. In Mofaz’s telling, the last
four years were not the four good years that Netanyahu boasted of, but rather
the four lean years, if not the four leanest years this country has ever
“Have our lives improved over the last four years?” Mofaz
asked, channeling his inner Reagan. “Are we a better country? More just? More
sensitive to our citizens? More united? Stronger?” The answer, Mofaz said, was
clear to all, and “no campaign slogan can hide the truth.” The Israel going to
the polls in January, he declared, is a weaker, more isolated, more divided,
more withdrawn and more frightened country than it was before Netanyahu moved
into the Prime Minister’s Office for the second time.
So what is it?
Feast or famine, boom or bust, all or nothing? Over the last four years have we
been living in Netanyahu’s heaven or Mofaz’s hell? Obviously the answer to that
depends, to a large extent, on one’s political predilections. However, numbers
and statistics can serve as guideposts.
In the old days, when there was a
major boxing match, the sports sections in the leading newspapers would run what
was called a “tale of the tape” before the fight. This would provide a
statistical comparison between the two fighters: age, weight, reach; neck,
chest, wrists, fists and biceps size. It measured the measurables, but not the
intangibles such as will, heart and drive.
What we have brought below is
a list of raw numbers, statistics gauging how things were before Netanyahu took
office on March 31, 2009, and how they are today, across a wide range of areas.
A tale of the tape, if you will.
This list is neither scientific nor
exhaustive. It is culled from a variety of sources, including the Central Bureau of Statistics, the Bank of Israel, the Immigration and
Absorption Ministry, the Jerusalem Municipality, the Prime Minister’s Office,
the Foreign Ministry, Peace Now and the CIA World Factbook.
compare the period since March 31, 2009, when Netanyahu took office, to the
four-year period immediately prior. Others compare 2008, the year before
Netanyahu came into office, to 2012, 2011 or 2010, depending on what data were
The aim of presenting these statistics is to give readers a
rough way of empirically trying to figure out whether, indeed, we are better or
worse off now than we were then.
Are we safer? Are we more isolated
internationally? Are we paying substantially more for housing? Like everything,
the picture that emerges is not black or white.
In some areas we are
doing better, in others not as well. And in some spheres – such as the number of
Jews living beyond the Green Line and the tenders issued for new construction in
post- 1976 Jerusalem – the answer lies very much in the eye of the beholder.