Netanyahu vows to eliminate Israel Lands Administration

If opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu comes to power again, one of the first items on his agenda will be the elimination of the Israel Lands Administration. "If we win the next election, it will go in three months," Netanyahu said on Thursday at the annual gala dinner of the Israel-Britain Chamber of Commerce at the Tel Aviv Hilton. Netanyahu considers the ILA's monopoly on land to be a serious impediment to economic growth. Economic growth is paralyzed, he said, because 93 percent of the nation's land is owned by a state monopoly while only 7% is in private hands. Netanyahu described the ILA and zoning regulations as "dinosaurs that belong in a bureaucratic Jurassic Park." Another reform Netanyahu said he would implement if given another chance at leading the nation would be to privatize the ports, a measure that he believes would add 2% to GDP growth. He would also streamline government and lower taxes to create a more competitive environment, he said. Netanyahu began his address by saying that he owed a personal intellectual debt to Britain. One was to Scotsman Adam Smith, who two and a half centuries ago advocated a free market economy, and the other was to former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, who was responsible for the economic models copied by dozens of countries including Israel. "The Thatcher revolution in the early 1980s created an enormous economic engine," said Netanyahu, who also said Britain's "very innovative social programs" had complemented its market economy. So admiring is Netanyahu of Thatcher that he confessed, "I copied as much as I could." He would have done more, he said, but he didn't stay in office long enough to implement all the reforms required for sustainable growth and a significant reduction in poverty. Netanyahu surprised his audience when he said its best resources were neither human resources nor hi-tech capabilities. If the level of education made a country wealthy, Bulgaria would be the richest country in the world, he said. And if scientific achievements and capability made a country wealthy, then Russia would be one of the wealthiest countries in the world. "It's not science and technology that create wealth," he said. "It's free markets." Science and technology help, he acknowledged, but while one can have free markets without science and technology and become wealthy, "if you have science and technology without free markets, you won't get anywhere." Netanyahu referred briefly to the Iranian nuclear threat, warning of the dangers of a religious cult that seeks to dominate the world and opposes modernity and freedom. In this cult, "there is no room for infidels, who have to be exterminated or subjugated," he said, comparing militant Islam with the rise of National Socialism in Germany in the 1930s. Notwithstanding the growing strength of militant Islam, Netanyahu is convinced that "freedom will win again," as it did when the Allies defeated Hitler's Germany. "It will lose out," he said of militant Islam, "but the question is, what will happen until it loses out?" Netanyahu said Teheran's economy was vulnerable, and that if the free world divested itself of investments in Iran, the Islamic republic would not have the capital to develop its oil industry. This in turn would affect Iran's ability to advance it nuclear program. "We must do everything we can to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons," he said.