Uriel Lynn, president of the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce, decried Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu as a “socialist” during an interview with The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
“The one who’s led the extremist socialism, more than any other person, is Netanyahu. Netanyahu the capitalist, since he’s been the prime minister, has led the country to extremist socialism,” the 77-year-old former Likud MK told the Post at his Tel Aviv office, under the watchful eye of a wall of photos featuring him with politicians of every stripe.
To be clear, Lynn does not believe that Netanyahu does not understand what is good for the business sector, whose interests are the purview of Lynn’s organization. He simply believes that the prime minister sold them out to build his political coalition with the real enemy: the Histadrut- tied Labor party.
“When Netanyahu was a finance minister, he worked with us very closely. He was a good finance minister. He built the correct principals and led to the growth of the business sector. The second he became the prime minister, and he put coalition considerations as the central issue, he caused us to become the most socialist nation in the world, a nation that has almost no rights for employers,” Lynn said.
“The best cooperation [Labor leader] Shelly Yacimovich got from laws she initiated was from the Likud party. The Likud built Shelly Yacimovich. The Likud gave her more support than anyone else.”
For Lynn, workers’ rights are not the enemy of business.
His organization, he says, pushed for a NIS 5,000 shekel minimum wage, but failed to garner support.
“The amount that they raised the minimum was insulting,” he said, lamenting that minimum wage earners are the hardest hit by so many of the country’s economic problems.
Environmental laws and fair regulation, like employees’ rights, are all well and good, he said, but within reason.
“We are not against workers’ rights. We support improving workers’ conditions. But we are against infringing employers’ rights. There’s a very big difference between the two.”
The six trends he said that he finds most disturbing are: the National Labor Court chipping away at contractual rights; increasingly substantial red tape; high costs resulting from state-owned monopolies (such as the Israel Electric Corporation and the Ports and Railways Authority); criminalizing business management practices; high taxation; and a proliferation of labor laws.
“The Knesset and the National Labor Court are ruining the business sector,” Lynn said.
“When they legislate against the business sector, they see in front of their eyes big companies.
But the business sector isn’t just the big companies,” he noted.
According to Lynn’s figures, Israel is home to 480,000 businesses, among which 450,000 are small or medium-sided business. The extra responsibilities, taxes, regulations, red tape and bureaucracy heaped up on giant corporations, which usually have the resources to overcome them, often end up crushing the smaller businesses.
“Everything you do against the business sector is against the small ones too. The burden on them is much greater.”
Ironically, that just ends up increasing market concentration, thereby making the big, powerful companies bigger and more powerful, Lynn explained..
“You need to allow fair competition in the economy, no question,” he said, adding, “The concentration in the private sector isn’t nearly as dangerous as the concentration in the public-government sector.”
The ports, the electricity and water utility and local authorities, Lynn said, “threaten the public and economy more than concentration of the private sector.”
Even though the FICC does not, in theory, endorse political parties or candidates, Lynn has no compunction saying which parties he believes are most supportive of his pro-business agenda.
“Today Yair Lapid’s party [Yesh Atid], [Naftali] Bennett’s party [Bayit Yehudi], the party Israel Beytenu—not the Likud Beytenu—and Likud theoretically supports it. But while they supported it theoretically, they did exactly the opposite.”
When asked about Tzipi Livni, whose economic platform is similar to Lapid’s, Lynn dismisses her with a wave of his hand.
“Livni wasted all the political capital she had,” he said, excoriating the former Kadima leader for her failure to put together a coalition after her party won the most seats in the last election, and clearing the way for the Likud-Labor coalition he so disdained.
“Livni I judge by her past. Although she’s a talented lady, politically she was an abject failure,” Lynn stated, adding that “in Israel, the opposition has very limited opportunity to contribute.”