‘Anyone but Bibi!” This is the message the center- left parties have tried engraving during this political campaign.
It’s not the Palestinian issue, stupid!
However, a quick look at the past few years and at the challenges facing Israel in the next few years leaves us with one clear conclusion: Only Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can lead this country through this uncertain time, and only he is deserving of our votes.
One of the main arguments against Netanyahu, from the Right, is because of his declared support for the two-state solution. In fact, I strongly reject this criticism. A Palestinian state would be a disaster for Israel’s security. It would also be a moral wrong: Not only because of the expulsion of thousands of Jews from their homes, but also because of the 3,000-year-old connection of the Jews to the parts of Israel that on which a Palestinian state would, in theory, be created. It should be noted that the great majority of Likud members and Likud MKs also oppose a Palestinian state and are at odds with Netanyahu on this issue.
If that is the case, why support him? The reason is simple. While he supports a Palestinian state in theory, he agrees that it will not happen today, or in the near future. On this point, there is no disagreement. Therefore, why argue about some theoretical issue instead of arguing on important practical issues?
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Instead of focusing on the Palestinian program, he understands that the real threats facing Israel are not the Palestinian issue, but rather Hezbollah’s armament in the North, the Islamic State’s advances in Syria, Iraq and possibly Jordan, and of course Iran’s advances towards a nuclear weapon.
It is no coincidence that Netanyahu failed to mention the Palestinian issue in his historic speech to Congress: It is simply irrelevant right now.
On all of the issues that are truly relevant, there is no better candidate than Netanyahu to lead this country. He was one of the first world leaders to foresee the dangers of the Arab Spring and the rise of Islamic State. He is one of the most convincing leaders on the issue of Iran’s nuclear armament program. No one can do a better job on these issues.The economy is doing great
One of the main arguments of the Left against the government is a claim that the economy has been doing terribly under Netanyahu’s leadership.
However, even though this argument is repeated over and over again, it is still erroneous.
The economy has in fact never been better. Israel’s unemployment rate is one of the lowest in the OECD, and the rate of participation in the workforce keeps on growing. Both the median and the average salary, which were historically very low in Israel, have started rising.
The number of poor people, while still high, started going down under Netanyahu’s leadership. The inequalities in income distribution have also started to go down.
Prices kept rising for years and recently they started going down. The Likud, led by Netanyahu, brought competition to the cellphone market, the airline, Internet and television industries, and to many more areas. The overly centralized economy is finally seeing some competition. Of course, Netanyahu’s government is also the government that passed the groundbreaking Concentration Law, encouraging competition in all areas.
If this is the case, how is it possible that the Left bases its whole political campaign against Netanyahu on such a blatant lie? There are two main reasons for this. First of all, the economy has various historic problems that the Likud under Netanyahu started to fix.
While we can see the first fruits of the Likud’s labor, the economy is still not perfect. As we said, even if prices started going down, they are still high. Even if the number of poor people started to go down, the number is still high. However, when looking at the effectiveness of a government, one cannot judge the government in a vacuum, but rather judge the direction the government is going in: a good direction or a bad direction? What is the current trend? Netanyahu’s government is clearly going in the right direction.
The second reason is based on Israel’s unique political system that forces the creation of coalitions in order to rule. This means that not all areas of the economy are controlled by the prime minister’s party. Therefore, some areas, which are outside his control, still have serious problems. The most obvious such area is the “price of housing” crisis.
Netanyahu had already identified this in 2009 and proposed a plan that was to solve this problem. However, because his party did not hold the relevant portfolios, even as prime minister he had to negotiate the solutions with the relevant ministers and they were never accepted.
In the last government, Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid, then finance minister, preferred suggesting a ridiculous plan calling for an exemption on value-added tax for people buying houses. This actually caused the prices to go up even faster! The housing minister at the time also was not from the Likud but from Bayit Yehudi.
Those who do not understand Israeli politics might think that such an argument is just rejecting the blame that the Likud should get. However, if one looks at every single ministry that the Likud held, they will see that it passed revolutionary reforms in all those ministries.
Israel Katz of the Likud was transportation minister, and he passed a revolutionary reform called Open Skies to lower the prices of airplane tickets.
He opened railway stations in the periphery to connect all parts of Israel and allow people to live as far south as Sderot while working in Tel Aviv and making a decent salary. Katz started a groundbreaking reform in the ports that is still in the process of being implemented.
In the Education Ministry, Gideon Sa’ar raised the conditions of teachers throughout the country with a series of courageous reforms that managed to get the agreement of the very powerful teachers’ union while focusing not only on teachers’ salaries but also on the quality of teaching. In the Communications Ministry, Gilad Erdan revolutionized the public broadcasting station, closing it down completely and reopening it in a much more efficient model that will save taxpayers a lot of money while providing better quality broadcasts. As interior ministers, both Sa’ar and Erdan fought the influx of illegal immigrants, with the support of Netanyahu, by building a fence on the Egyptian border and creating disincentives to illegal immigration.
In every single ministry under the control of the Likud, great things happened.
The remaining problems are all in ministries that the Likud did not have control over. The solution therefore is not to replace the Likud, but rather to make it even bigger.Voting in Israel
When voting in Israel, citizens have the chance to be a part of deciding the country’s future. Israeli democracy is a vessel through which Jewish self-determination is reaffirmed in every election.
This is a great privilege, one that many of our ancestors could only dream of.
However, as much as it is a great privilege, it is a great responsibility.
As such, one much make sure not to fall for empty statements by dishonest politicians, but rather look at the facts.
When one looks at the facts, the best option is clearly the Likud under Benjamin Netanyahu’s leadership.The writer is an attorney and a former legislative adviser to the Coalition Chairman in the Knesset. He previously served in a legal capacity at the Foreign Ministry.
He is a graduate of McGill University Law School and Hebrew University’s master’s program in public policy.