Why choose Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu? The simple answer is that there is no one else. But I won’t suffice with that — or with noting the need to spare the economy the fate of collapsed economies in other countries. Others have helped, but the one who crafts the policy and insists on implementing it remains Netanyahu.
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Another criterion is security, and Netanyahu showed strong leadership and responsibility during the Gaza war and the recent incidents in the north. Plus he is waging an uncompromising battle against terror.
But his main accomplishments are against Iran’s nuclear program. Thanks to his persistent efforts, negotiations are being conducted with Iran and sanctions have been imposed on it. If not for that, Iran would almost certainly have nuclear weapons by now. The battle is not yet over and Netanyahu will continue to oppose Iran’s obtaining of nuclear weapons, which threatens Israel’s very existence.
As for the economy, almost all trends are positive. Employment is increasing steadily (the unemployment rate is among the lowest in the world), industrial production and exports are increasing despite the stagnation in Europe, and gross domestic product is rising faster than in the United States (and in Europe, of course).
Data from the statistics bureau show that in the fourth quarter, GDP increased at an annual rate of 7.2 percent. Israel therefore has two clear alternatives: a modern democratic country with a free and flourishing economy at the forefront of technological and scientific innovation, or a backward country in these senses like Greece or Venezuela.
There is room for criticism of the fact that the economic success has not sufficiently trickled down, mainly in terms of housing. The “solution” proposed by Zionist Union will not only fail to ease the problem, it will increase bureaucracy and lead to corruption and the long enslavement of mortgage holders to government agencies.
Netanyahu proposes a suitable solution: less dependence on the Israel Land Authority and an increase in the supply of land. Meanwhile, Netanyahu is responsible for the higher minimum wage, benefits to students in outlying areas and working parents, and the opening of the market to competition, which lowered some prices.
He is also responsible for saving higher education from collapse, free education for children from age 3, the rescue of the Histadrut labor federation’s pension funds, and transportation projects that bring outlying areas closer to the center, as it were.
In diplomacy, Netanyahu can better handle the threat of a “one-state solution,” which endangers Israel’s character as a Jewish, Zionist and democratic state, and a dangerous “two-state solution,” which in the current situation in the Middle East, Iran and among the Palestinians means a constant threat to our security.
There is no clear-cut solution, especially since recent decades show that there is no partner on the Palestinian side and perhaps no chance for real peace. In his memoirs, Bill Clinton describes Netanyahu as a true statesman, and we can assume he is better prepared than others to deal with these problems.
In diplomatic and security issues, Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni are exhibiting shocking amateurism, shallowness and a lack of understanding both of global trends and trends in the Arab world. Livni conducted talks with the Palestinians for five years under two governments and got nowhere because she lives in an imaginary world that does not recognize the Palestinians’ real objectives. Even a great campaigner like Reuven Adler can’t convince the public that this odd couple can run the country.
The alliance with the United States is the second most important aspect of our security, after our military and technological strength. Even if there is no real crisis on vital issues — security and intelligence cooperation and strategic closeness — there is room for improvement. We can assume that Netanyahu will work to achieve this goal, but we should remember that it takes two to ruin or improve relations.
Even if Likud’s slate isn’t perfect, it’s a thousand times better than Zionist Union’s, and the public’s clear preference is Netanyahu for prime minister, shown by the nearly two-to-one gap in this metric compared to Herzog. Netanyahu is an Israeli patriot and a liberal in the classic sense. He is committed to freedom, open markets and equal opportunity — all principles at the heart of democracy.
Yes, Likud has changed since its establishment as a nationalist-liberal movement, but this is negligible compared to the shift to the anti-government left by Labor, which today has no ideological or practical connection to David Ben-Gurion, or even to Yitzhak Rabin.
For the most part, Zionist Union is a collection of neo-Marxists economically and post-Zionists diplomatically and security-wise. They despise a free economy and private initiative, the lifeblood of a flourishing economy and democracy. In diplomacy they believe in accepting every Palestinian demand with nothing in return.
Whether voters like Netanyahu or not, they face two main tests Tuesday: Who will better maintain Israel’s security and who will better guarantee economic growth and continued prosperity. Zionist Union’s campaign slogan — “It’s us or him” — is right on target. The wise and responsible will decide Tuesday: It’s him.
Zalman Shoval, a former MK, twice served as Israel’s ambassador to the United States.