Netanyahu: Israel Not Living Up to Herzl's Economic Vision

In a Knesset speech marking Herzl Day, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also says anti-Semitism is alive and well in the world in the form of anti-Zionism.

In a speech to the Knesset in honor of Herzl Day Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was not economically living up to Theodore Herzl's vision.

"I believe and have always believed that the Israeli economy needs to open up and allow competition, that it should dismantle monopolies," he said. "We have created a very centralized economy that is not in accordance with Herzl's vision. The more competitive the market is the more it serves all citizens, especially the weak."

Days after the signing of the Open Skies agreement, which will increase competition in Israel's airline industry, Netanyahu pledged to continue such reforms, particularly in Israel's seaports, and to bring down automobile prices.

"No strike will dissuade us, and we will carry out these economic measures for the benefit of the citizens of Israel," he said.

Netanyahu also said that anti-Semitism was alive and well in the world in the form of anti-Zionism.

"Anti-Semitism is just taking a break," he said. "Instead of defaming the Jews, because it's no longer polite to do so among Western elites, they now choose to defame, besmirch and denounce the right of the Jewish state to exist."

Opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) offered a competing account of Herzl's economic vision. She critically referred to a meeting with Avaraham Hirchson, who served as finance minister when Ehud Olmert was prime minister, where she said he told her, "The state of Israel will be run just like a business."

"Zionism is not only the establishment of a state," she said. It is also the type of state that will be established and what education and welfare systems it will have. Herzl thought that a roof over one's head was the state's responsibility. Herzl believed in the business sector but didn't mean for there to be 50 tycoons – but 500,000 small business owners."

A portrait of Theodor Herzl, father of Zionism, at the site of the declaration of Israel's independence.
David Bachar
Emil Salman