Israelis Want a Stable Government. Netanyahu Only Wants Survival

Haaretz Editorial
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a briefing on the coronavirus disease at his office in Jerusalem, September 13, 2020.
Haaretz Editorial

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s need to control this government’s expiry date is dooming it to complete paralysis in everything pertaining to senior officials’ appointments, and to preparing next year’s state budget.

The damage is piling up daily, and if the public cannot detect it, this is only because people are busy worrying about their physical and financial health.

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All this is happening in the midst of one of the hardest economic, social and health crises Israel has ever known, darkened by an acute political crisis stemming from Netanyahu’s legal situation.

The political chaos is driving out expert senior officials, such as Accountant General Rony Hizkiyahu, who managed the state budget in the past year and decided to leave due to the ongoing delay in passing a new budget.

“Another election round is probable, and it’s already pretty certain that we’ll enter 2021 with an extended budget, so there’s a limit,” Hizkiyahu said in an interview with TheMarker on Thursday. “The politicians aren’t doing what the public wants them to do. The public wants stability and a good government.”

As the one who signs Israel’s checks, Hizkiyahu had to deal with a 160 billion-shekel ($47.3 billion) budget increase over the past year to handle the coronavirus crisis, which brought the budget deficit to more than 10 percent for the first time since the 1990s.

All the countries dealing with the coronavirus have large deficits, an enlarged public debt and higher unemployment. But in Israel this is accompanied by a political crisis that prevents drafting a state budget and making economic reforms to enable planning, priorities and preparing economic and social rehabilitation plans.

Hizkiyahu isn’t a typical treasury official. He is resigning at the age of 69 with no political aspirations, and his criticism is relatively moderate compared to what he really thinks of the politicians. He believes that if the credit-rating agencies reduce Israel’s credit rating, it would be because of the governance issue: three election rounds in a year, and perhaps a fourth on the way – and no budget.

Hizkiyahu is right. Governance and stability are necessary conditions for emerging successfully from the crisis, but they are being abandoned because of Netanyahu’s battle for survival.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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