At 8 pm this past Sunday night, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu headed up a rally in Tel Aviv at the same square where Anti-Bibi protesters of the Likud regime had shown up in roughly double numbers (15, 000-20,000 for Bibi, 30,000-40,000 against).
If Bibi and his far right Likud party lose the election, Bibi has been openly threatened with losing his party leadership. So, like conservatives DO, Bibi’s solution is to be a one-trick pony, doubling down on a strategy that isn’t working. Not only have many voters left Bibi and his party, but many of his political allies are fed up and bailing on him as well. Nobody likes to be tainted with the stink of failure, and the disapproval following Bibi’s congressional speech on Iran (criticized as lies by his own head of Mossad, siding with the opposition in Israel at the bigger rally) is just the latest, not the ‘onliest’ failure that stinks.
The only message Bibi had to offer — don’t-let-in-the-lefties, and fear-fear-fear-fear-fear, topped with a dollop of “I’m the only hero who can save you”. Add to that, allegations and investigations that government tax dollars have been misused, including to fund the campaign, including the Sunday night rally. All part of Bibi’s government-for-special-interests- problem with voters. As noted by Salon, back in a February article:
A Shapira spokesman told the Israeli daily Haaretz that the comptroller sees sufficient evidence to consider a criminal investigation.
Like the boy who cried wolf, the anti-Iran, everybody-is-against-us, it’s-always-someone-else’s- fault message is wearing thin, resulting in a fear fatigue. Further, like the conservatives here in the US and elsewhere, conservative policies in Israel have produced poor economic outcomes, with a large part of the economic problems directly caused by excessive military spending (just like here in the US). As noted by Paul Krugman:
Economic happiness is not the usual mainstream story we hear about Israel. The country is a high-technology powerhouse and its economy has grown rapidly, barely affected by the worldwide recession starting in 2008. But the spoils of that growth have gone disproportionately to Israel’s own version of the one percent. According to Krugman, since the early 1990s,
Israel has experienced a dramatic widening of income disparities. Key measures of inequality have soared; Israel is now right up there with America as one of the most unequal societies in the advanced world. And Israel’s experience shows that this matters, that extreme inequality has a corrosive effect on social and political life.
Consider what has happened at either end of the spectrum — the growth in poverty, on one side, and extreme wealth, on the other.
According to Luxembourg Income Study data, the share of Israel’s population living on less than half the country’s median income — a widely accepted definition of relative poverty — more than doubled, to 20.5 percent from 10.2 percent, between 1992 and 2010. The share of children in poverty almost quadrupled, to 27.4 percent from 7.8 percent. Both numbers are the worst in the advanced world, by a large margin.
And when it comes to children, in particular, relative poverty is the right concept. Families that live on much lower incomes than those of their fellow citizens will, in important ways, be alienated from the society around them, unable to participate fully in the life of the nation. Children growing up in such families will surely be placed at a permanent disadvantage.
At the other end, while the available data — puzzlingly — don’t show an especially large share of income going to the top 1 percent, there is an extreme concentration of wealth and power among a tiny group of people at the top. And I mean tiny. According to the Bank of Israel, roughly 20 families control companies that account for half the total value of Israel’s stock market. The nature of that control is convoluted and obscure, working through “pyramids” in which a family controls a firm that in turn controls other firms and so on. Although the Bank of Israel is circumspect in its language, it is clearly worried about the potential this concentration of control creates for self-dealing.
The widening inequality in Israel, like that in the U.S. is the result of policy decisions, not just some naturally occurring phenomenon that free marketeers like to claim. Shockingly, according to Krugman, “Israel does less to lift people out of poverty than any other advanced country — yes, even less than the United States.” Now that is saying something. And those living in poverty are not just Israel’s oppressed Arab population and ulta-Orthodox Jews.
Israel’s oligarchs, like Russia’s, managed to gain control of businesses that were privatized in the 1980s. That control enables them outsized influence on policy. Works every time. Netanyahu is a big advocate for policies that keep them sitting pretty, and like New Jersey’s Chris Christie, the Israeli P.M. enjoys sitting and traveling pretty himself, often on the taxpayer’s dime.
Putting it all in simpler terms we’ve heard before, harkening back to Bill Clinton: “It’s the economy stupid.”
It is truly amazing how in lock-step conservatives are, here in the US and in Israel. In both, for example, we have Sheldon Adelman spending obscene amounts of money to control politics that cater to special interests. That is never good for ordinary people, but it has been the blubbery kiss of death for right wingers for a while now.