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Bad News from Israel's Elections--The Revival of Israeli Socialism:

The international media, of course, is focusing on the implications of the election for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but there is bad news for those of us who believe that Israel's inept and corrupt version of social democracy has been stifling economic growth there for years. The new "Pensioners Party" won 7 out of the 120 seats. I don't know much about this party, but I've seen it described as "socialist." Even if it's not, the last thing Israel needs is a domestic equivalent of the AARP holding decisive votes in the Knesset. Meanwhile, the Labor Party, led by former union leader Amir Peretz, did better than expected with 20 seats, running largely on a "social justice" (i.e., big government) platform. The religious Separdic Shas Party, which made increased transfer payments from the government its major issue, won 13 seats. The Likud Party, meanwhile, garnered only around 11 seats, in part, analysts seem to agree, because voters chose to punish party leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who as finance minister pushed through free-market economic reforms and budget cuts that rescued the Israeli economy from a nasty Intifada and tech-collapse induced recession.

Israel has among the highest tax burdens and government spending of any "capitalist" nation in the world (even putting aside the defense burden), yet the education system stinks (Israeli kids must have the shortest school day in the developed world!), the infrastructure is awful, and corruption with regard to government contracts, permits, et al., is rampant. The average Israeli voter, though, has a solution to this mess (and I've heard it over and over again from Israelis): More government. Israelis elites, both left and right, have tried with some success to bring Israel out of its statist stupor, but the public has finally rebelled; large segments of the public want that old time Socialist religion, and that, apparently, is what they are going to get.

UPDATE: In my view, Israel's economic situation is an important Israeli national security issue. To understand why, just wander around New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Rockville, Maryland, and even Ann Arbor, and notice all the smart, ambitious, and often technology-savvy Israelis who have chosen to make their homes in the U.S. The drain of human capital is enormous, and while not all of it is attributable to the relatively sorry state of Israel's economy, a good part of it is.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. For an Ethnic Group That Likes To Think of Itself as Smart,
  2. The Return of Israeli Socialism?
  3. Bad News from Israel's Elections--The Revival of Israeli Socialism:
NYSofMind:
David-

Israelis are some of the best-educated people on earth. chalk it up to culture, perhaps, but there's a Steimatzky bookstore around every corner, even in Tiberias, which is basically the Israeli version of West Virginia... imagine what would have to change in America to have a bookstore around every corner.
3.29.2006 12:44am
Hugh Rice (mail):
Misplaced priorities? I think so. Tax burdens and economic growth in an otherwise affluent country are hardly more important than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and it would seem to me that the Israeli voters correctly recognized this point.
3.29.2006 9:04am
jackson dyer (mail):
You are overstating the case.

Israel needs electoral reform for sure, however the top priority needs to be the disengagement from the Palestinians.

The new government hopefully will accomplish that.


Criticizing Israel for its socio-economic policies at the moment is like condemning the US under Roosevelt for its social policies while it was fighting world war two.
3.29.2006 10:01am
DavidBernstein (mail):
Yeah, but with Kadima safely in the lead, lots of Israelis who support disengagement cast their vote on "social" issues, and they voted overwhelmingly left (not that there was any real alternatives, but they could have just voted for Kadima).
3.29.2006 10:16am
Defending the Indefensible:
David Bernstein wrote:
[J]ust wander around New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Rockville, Maryland, and even Ann Arbor, and notice all the smart, ambitious, and often technology-savvy Israelis who have chosen to make their homes in the U.S.
And this is bad for the United States, why? It seems to me that there is an implicitly misplaced priority on the internal politics of Israel here. If you chose to become an Israeli citizen, presuming you are Jewish, you could exercise your right of return to do so. But from the standpoint of the United States, I don't see why we should have any distress over the political preferences of the Israeli people.
3.29.2006 11:27am
jackson dyer (mail):
Here is a list of the parties that made it into the Knesset:

Kadima 28 seats

Labor 20 seats

Shas 13 seats

Yisrael Beitenu 12 seats

Likud 11 seats

National Union / NRP 9 seats

Gil (senior citizens) 7 seats

United Torah Judaism 6 seats

Meretz 4 seats

United Arab List 4 seats

Balad 3 seats

Hadash 3 seats



As you can see the only strictly social issues party is the Senior Citizens party.

Even Labor while it is a social democratic party draws vote4s from people who have other concerns also in the same way that people here vote for the Democrats for other than strictly economic reasons.


Still, Kadima can put together a coalition that excludes Labor and the SC party if it is so inclined. I doubt it will do so since it needs as large a consensus of diverse voter's points of view as possible if the country is to accept the final drawing of permanent borders with or without the cooperation of the PA.



There will come a time when Israelis will have the luxury of voting on purely social issues, and it can't come too soon, but that time isn't here yet.
3.29.2006 1:55pm
jackson dyer (mail):
Here is the link to the above election result list:

3.29.2006 1:57pm
amechad (mail) (www):
You are absolutely right. I've been blogging about this for the past 48 hours. This is a disaster for the economy and thus Israel. Maybe you need to make aliya. Just pray that Kadima holds on to the Finance Ministry.
3.29.2006 1:58pm
amechad (mail) (www):
You are absolutely right. I've been blogging about (amechad.blogspot.com) this for the past 48 hours. This is a disaster for the economy and thus Israel. Maybe you need to make aliya. Just pray that Kadima holds on to the Finance Ministry.
3.29.2006 1:58pm
jackson dyer (mail):
Sorry about that the system doesn't want to post the link.

I got it from jpost.com


jpost.com/C006/Supplements/elections.2006/finals.html
3.29.2006 1:59pm
josh:
Bernstein says "notice all the smart, ambitious, and often technology-savvy Israelis who have chosen to make their homes in the U.S."

A very brief google search shows the level of business interest in investment in Israel's burgeoning "Silicon Wadi." The story comes from 2000, when the Labor "socialist" Ehud Barak was in power.

This facile linkage of political party to economic outcome is about as supportable as "trickle-down economics."
3.29.2006 3:13pm
Boris Karpa, who actually lives in Israel (mail):
Ehud Barak was not any kind of socialist.

Now, Peretz certainly is, and he won the huge amount of mandates by making himself out to be a 'social issues' leader.
3.29.2006 4:25pm
M. Simon (mail) (www):
If more Jews read Milton Friedman they would be way more economically savy.
3.29.2006 7:30pm