In Israel, Lapid and Netanyahu out-Thatcher Thatcher

A government that expects the poor to take pity on the rich has no right to exist.

Aner Shalev
Aner Shalev
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Aner Shalev
Aner Shalev

I remember Samira, our neighbor the year we lived in London, and her daughter Aisha, who was in the same class as our daughter Ariella. I remember the summer evenings drenched in light until 11, and weekend barbecues on Samira's lawn.

Samira was born in Muslim Malaysia and came to England in her 20s. She was a single mother who worked as a waitress and lived near Camden Town in a three-room apartment. It wasn't public housing. Samira's rent was high, but the welfare authorities paid for most of it, with Samira responsible for only one-sixth.

I remember Nadia, another of our friends that year in London. Nadia had a British mother and an Indian father, a political activist who spent years in prison in his home country. Nadia was a human rights activist who barely made a living practicing alternative medicine. She was also a single mother, and her daughter Gaia also was in the same class as our daughter. Her socioeconomic situation entitled her to council housing paid for from the public coffers.

I remember the excellent public school in Hampstead where Aisha, Gaia and Ariella went. Everything was free; parents didn't have to pay for after-school groups and activities. School ended every day at 3:30 P.M. and provided lunches for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

I remember the public health services in England, the NHS, that were provided completely free of charge, not just for citizens but also for temporary residents like us. I remember spending hours in the emergency room in London, where I went through a battery of tests without a paying a pound.

When former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher died, pundits here said Thatcherism was alive and well – in Israel. Unfortunately, this resembles British understatement. Based on my many years in England I can say that Israel gives Thatcherism a bad name. Britain, even in the Thatcher era, was a very compassionate welfare state compared to Israel's destructive policies under the leadership of the Siamese twins, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yair Lapid.

If Samira had come to Israel and not England she wouldn't have received any support from the authorities. In the best case she would have been persecuted, in the worst case she would have been deported.

If Nadia were living in Israel as an Israeli citizen, she wouldn't be entitled to benefits to help cover the rent, an excellent education for her daughter or free health care. Today, Gaia and Aisha are university honor students and will greatly contribute to the society that invested in them. What's the chance this would happen in Israel?

The philosophy of taking from the rich hasn't proved itself anywhere, said Lapidyahu with surprising candor. They quickly implemented the new politics in which the poor are expected to feel sorry for the pathetic rich and support them with an open heart. Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, which makes billions in profits, pays corporate tax of just 0.3 percent, while Lapid's everywoman Riki Cohen from Hadera pays 50 times as much, subsidizing the haircuts and benefits enjoyed by the top 0.1 percent.

The reduction in housing costs that was promised by both Netanyahu and Lapid before the election morphed immediately into an added burden. Instead of public housing or subsidized housing for the needy, as is done in England, we got a hike in housing taxes that will send apartment costs even higher. Meanwhile, the cost of the Netanyahus' bed on their flight to attend Thatcher's funeral could cover a needy Israeli family's housing costs for 20 years.

This ostentatious leadership that invests in capitalists instead of human capital has no right to exist. Now is the time to take to the streets.

Benjamin Netanyahu meeting with Margaret Thatcher in Jerusalem in 1998.Credit: GPO



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