When Electioneering Meets Reality

With Election Day around the corner, some parties claim credit for a host of accomplishments, with little regard to the facts.

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Free preschool education: an achievement, but not by the outgoing government.
Free preschool education: an achievement, but not by the outgoing government.Credit: Ilan Assayag

With Election Day around the corner, the parties that were members of the outgoing government are trying to attract voters by taking credit for a host of accomplishments — with little regard for who was actually behind the triumphs they claim for themselves.

Likud is pointing with pride at changes that were actually made by the previous government, like free preschool education, or was never completed in the first place, like ports reform.

The plan to fund free education from age 3 was approved by the cabinet in 2012, in response to the recommendations of the Trajtenberg Committee, which examined the cost of living in Israel, and to pressure from the social protests. Ports reform, meanwhile, is something Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu started but failed to carry through when he was finance minister in 2003-2005, but the party is claiming it as a success just because tenders have been published for the construction of new ports.

Over at Habayit Hayehudi, chairman Naftali Bennett is claiming credit for lowering the cost of living. But the drop stems from lower demand and deeper discounts, particularly on food — not from anything he initiated. Bennett is also claiming credit for advancing unemployment insurance for the self-employed, though that proposal was actually made in a bill sponsored by Ilan Gilon of Meretz, and for the rise in the minimum wage for contract workers in cleaning and security, though that was the result of an agreement signed in July 2013 between the Histadrut and the National Association of Cleaning and Maintenance Companies in Israel.

Topping them all is the leader of the Yesh Atid party, Yair Lapid. The former finance minister claims the 2015 budget drawn up at the end of his term of office — which didn’t pass, because the Knesset was dissolved and new elections were called — was the most socially conscious budget in Israel’s history. An examination of the document by Lior Dattel of TheMarker, however, showed that the 2015 budget proposal contained almost no reforms or structural changes, nor any significant funding increases for the ministries responsible for social services.

If the 2015 budget had passed, it would have reinforced the status quo, offering no significant plans to deal with fundamental problems like poverty, public housing, welfare or education.

It’s hard to understand the basis for some of Lapid’s other claims. Reducing the number of ministers, which Lapid claims will save Israelis hundreds of millions of shekels, will actually save only a few million shekels annually. He also wants to claim credit for the increase in the number of Haredim being drafted and entering the workforce, but his statements on these subjects are not based on up-to-date statistics.

There are some changes that can easily be tracked, but Lapid isn’t boasting about accomplishments like the hike in value-added tax, which hurts the poor more than it does other segments of society, or the almost total cancellation of subsidized afternoon child-care programs. Nor is he bragging about last year’s across-the-board cut in ministerial budgets — except for that of the Defense Ministry — or the cut in child allowances.

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