A Dreamy Trip to Greece for Israel's Socialists - Part Two

A journey through the ruins of the Greek economy, with four Israeli Knesset members who have elevated Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to godlike status.

Nehemia Shtrasler
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A Greek flag flies behind a statue symbolizing European unity, in Brussels, Belgium.Credit: Reuters
Nehemia Shtrasler

The trip to Greece that began last Friday has become a huge success in recent days, following Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ victory in the national referendum, which rejected the terms of an international bailout.

MKs Dov Khenin, Zehava Galon, Yossi Yonah and Shelly Yacimovich were beside themselves with joy when they saw how the neo-socialists taught wicked Europe a lesson on Sunday. “They won’t humiliate us, they won’t blackmail us, they won’t terrorize us,” said Tsipras’ followers. “We have self-respect,” declared the Greek finance minister – and promptly resigned. And what is self-respect? Nonrepayment of debts. After all, someone has to have some fun here. Someone has to continue to dance the sirtaki and drink ouzo at the expense of others – in accordance with the best neo-socialist beliefs.

Yesterday, we (the four MKs and I, their tour guide – in the dream, of course) went to visit 77-year-old Giorgos Chatzifotiadis, who has become the most famous pensioner in the world. His picture has appeared all over the social networks – a heartrending image in which he is seen collapsed in tears next to a bank in Thessaloniki, after failing in his efforts to withdraw the pathetic 120-euro weekly pension bestowed by Tsipras.

Chatzifotiadis was slightly surprised to see the honorable delegation from Israel and told the MKs, “I couldn’t stand it any more! Tsipras wiped me out.” Khenin, Galon, Yonah and Yacimovich arose as one: “What are you talking about? Tsipras is not to blame. He’s only been in power for six months, and what can you do in six months?”

As it turns out, you can do a lot. Or, in other words, you can destroy a lot. Tsipras the socialist-cum-populist (it goes together in many cases) made lots of promises, in order to be elected – and according to the best neo-socialist traditions of increasing government spending without imposing limits. He promised to raise the minimum wage 30 percent, rehire all the civil servants who had been fired, increase pensions, distribute a health-service basket to everyone free of charge, as well as coupons for discounts on electricity and food to the weaker populations – and much more.

Above all, though, he promised not to implement the economic recovery plan, which was achieved with great effort in negotiations with the European Union. As part of the plan, which is so essential for Greece, Tsipras was supposed to streamline the government, raise the retirement age, impose a luxury tax, unify VAT rates, eliminate tax breaks for farmers, raise health tax rates, drop benefits for civil servants, privatize the national power company and open the energy market to competition. But all that is hard to implement. It’s also contrary to his socialist ideology, which is to expand, increase, spend and waste – and then let Germany and France foot the bill.

The moment he made empty promises and refused to implement the recovery plan – he became the one responsible for Greece’s current deterioration. In other words, Tsipras is to blame.

All right, said Khenin, Galon, Yonah and Yacimovich: let’s say he is to blame for the latest events. But the ones who caused the debt crisis and terrible unemployment are the right-wing parties who have ruled Greece for the past 20 years.

An interesting argument, but also incorrect. During the past 22 years – from 1993 until now – left-wing parties were in power in Greece for 17 of them, and right-centrist parties for five years. Moreover, those who distributed the gifts to the public and caused the huge deficits were the socialist governments.

But Khenin, Galon, Yonah and Yacimovich don’t acknowledge the reality. After all, it’s hard to see your life’s dream shatter before your eyes. That’s why they spoke yesterday to the Greek finance minister who just resigned and pleaded with him: Come to Israel, come to us; teach us how to run the economy and society properly.

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