Israel votes for strong economy; security-wise for the best there are

Israelis voting in March 2006 in Jerusalem when I had the pleasure of covering the election in the Holy Land.

Israelis voting in March 2006 in Jerusalem when I had the pleasure of covering the election in the Holy Land.

According to the latest polls, Israel will tomorrow overwhelmingly vote for the right-wing bloc. Likud-Beitenu (consisting of Likud and Yisrael Beitenu parties) and other centre-right parties are expected to win the election with 64-70 seats in Knesset, which gives them a comfortable majority in the 120-seat parliament.

But according to polls, it’s a rare election when security concerns in this tiny Middle-Eastern nation are shadowed by concerns over the economy. Despite a recent war with Hamas last year, despite the lousy outcome of the war, it’s not the most important factor this time.

It may be surprising as Israel, surrounded by over 400 million hostiles, has in recent elections consistently voted for parties that promise better security. All other matters have been secondary. Not this time. As the war with Hamas showed, there are limits to every government’s, every party’s willingness and ability to deal with the enemy. So security-wise they have to vote for the best there is. And utopian promises—as demonstrated by Naftali Bennett’s Habayit Hayehudi—don’t really sell.

Economy, however, is a different matter. In the times of uncertainty and great volatility in both Europe and the US, Israel’s economy has flourished under Binyamin Netanyahu’s leadership. Unemployment is low (5.4%), GDP is steadily growing (2.95% growth in 2010, 2.79% in 2011), taxes are kept reasonable, and the country is considered as one of the most promising start-up nations in the world. The great recession affected Israel only a little and the country came out of it almost clean.

Israelis have always worked hard, they’ve always been leaders in innovation and development, but one cannot neglect the government’s good work in keeping the economy running even when the rest of the world is in trouble. Let’s not forget that the European Union is Israel’s largest trade partner and when the EU is in trouble, so are its partners. Not Israel—thanks to Netanyahu’s and his team’s good management of the economy.

So in times of economic turmoil elsewhere, Israelis are reluctant to change the country’s course. A country’s economic success is the success of everyone in it, and having seen the disasters the left-wingers have managed to create in both Europe and the US, the Israelis don’t have a lot of options. That is the main reason Netanyahu will lead his party for yet another election victory tomorrow.

I, too, hope that Netanyahu and his allies win tomorrow. Even if it is for the lack of better, they have done an excellent job and I hope they will do even better after the election. On the other hand, I also hope Netanyahu will continue with a centre-right government and won’t include any lefties in the coalition. For one thing, Israel’s right-left coalitions have always been extremely unstable, but moreover, with left-wingers influencing the government’s policy it will never be as strong as it has been where and when it really matters.


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