On Economics, Next Israeli Government Will Be Firmly Right of Center

Yair Lapid, Naftali Bennett share Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s capitalist philosophy.

The right won. No, not the political right the economic right, of course.

Benjamin Netanyahu, who won the largest number of Knesset seats on Tuesday, and the two stars of the election campaign, Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett, are all distinctly economic rightists. Tzipi Livni, another candidate for joining a possible government, also shares right-wing economic views.

The right axis, therefore, can be expected to control the next government. This is especially so since the representative of the leftist social-democratic approach, Labor’s Shelly Yacimovich, was less successful and already said she won’t join a Netanyahu government.

The victory of the economic right could make the Finance Ministry’s job easier when the time comes to convince the next government to take on the nearly impossible task of slashing the budget by up to NIS 15 billion and raising taxes by another few billions, to meet spending ceilings and deficit targets.

Yacimovich on the outside

It will be painful for sure, but with Yacimovich on the outside and coalition partners who share identical outlooks on the essential need to maintain economic stability at almost any price, it becomes doable.

It isn’t clear, however, what might happen with the concentration committee’s recommendations. The panel, which was forced on Netanyahu and which he’s done nothing to advance, certainly won’t be popular among Lapid and his coterie from the upper 0.1%.

Let’s not forget that Jacob Perry, the representative of the tycoons, stars near the top of Lapid’s slate. There is already heavy concern that the committee’s recommendations could fall victim to the new government.

Lapid wasn’t as much the winner of the election as Netanyahu was the loser. No doubt the election could be characterized as a protest vote against Netanyahu and the policies he represents. But since Netanyahu and Lapid hold similar economic views, it would seem the protest was less along economic lines than against Netanyahu’s inaction and lack of vision.

Netanyahu, who headed the longest and most stable government since the time of Golda Meir, managed to fritter away his success on four years of continuous stagnation. He did nothing on the diplomatic front and missed an historic opportunity to reach an agreement with the ultra-Orthodox community on military service and employment. The High Court of Justice and the Plesner Committee handed him the possible solution on a golden platter, but he chose to join hands with the Haredim.

Netanyahu failed to implement any significant policy change with regard to Israel’s Arab population. Neither did he institute necessary reforms in the labor market or public sector. He failed to score on any of the critical fronts that could change the face of the country. He chose the safe and easy route rather than battling to change Israel’s future. And since the problems facing Israel are so urgent, Netanyahu’s fence-sitting actually set the country back. The Israeli voter, in all his wisdom, understood that.

Protest vote

The vote of protest against Netanyahu, and essentially against all current politicians, was reflected in the preference for the new kids on the block, in this case Lapid and Bennett. Both are new to politics and inexperienced. Both haven’t done anything and cannot be accused of making any mistakes.

So that’s how Lapid and Bennett, lacking any experience, entered the Knesset accompanied by dozens of Knesset members who are also inexperienced. Bennett’s slate was widely discussed during the election campaign more so than Lapid’s, which was handpicked, as everyone knows, by him personally without any process of primaries.

Included are new Knesset members like Yoel Razbozov, an athlete holding the sports portfolio at the Netanya municipality; Aliza Lavie, a lecturer on communications; Rena Frankel, a former vice-president in the vocational services; and social activists like Karine Elharrar, Adi Kol and Yifat Kariv.

Nearly the entire list of Lapid’s Knesset members is fresh and different, with plenty of social activity in their backgrounds, but now they are no longer mere citizens: They are Knesset members who will need to make fateful decisions in the political, economic and military arenas. It is doubtful that most of Lapid’s people have the relevant experience and knowledge for such decisions.

So the Israeli voter, who rightfully chose to protest the inaction of sitting politicians, directed his vote to unknowns. This was possibly not the smartest move.

The new government, whatever its composition, won’t even enjoy a 100-day grace period. There are huge decisions waiting to be made that cannot be put off: Enormous budget cuts, deteriorating relations with the Palestinians, the Iran issue.

Lapid should learn from the experiences of Amir Peretz and Yuval Steinitz: that there are portfolios too dangerous for the uninitiated. These are portfolios where the burning problems all gather Iran, the Palestinians, budget cuts and they are also the portfolios where the measure of success or lack thereof is immediately exposed. A young and inexperienced politician like Lapid would be better off choosing a less controversial portfolio like the foreign or education ministries. We would be better off too.

Daniel Bar-On