Monday, November 21, 2005

The End of Israel's Left?

For five years now analysts have been asking this question, however, for all intents and purposes they have been wrong. The left (economically, socially and strategically liberal) has existed as a party with a measurable (though muted) effect on Israel's politics. I would contrast this to American politics which is economically "conservative" (by which I really mean libertarian: let companies run without intervention). In the US is assumed that companies should be able to do what they want, so long as there is not a specific political need. This is in contrast to Israel where it is assumed that companies need to request permission from the gov't to act.

The creation of a "centrist party" may in fact destroy the left. All Israelis are committed to two things: their security and livelihood. In the early 90's it looked to many Israelis as if their security could improve through Oslo. A reduced armed forces is first and foremost to limiting casualties (if such an opportunity presents itself). 12 years later most Israelis believe they can improve their security by isolating the PA and endorsing measures such as the fence, disengagement and a smaller, more efficient military. While Likud and the Centrist Party can debate over these specifics, Labor will struggle to present any viable third alternative. With a two party system the opposition party need only present the opposing opinion, in a three party system that becomes increasingly difficult for one of the two opposing voices.

With regards to Israel's economy there are very few who still endorse a socialist system. Particularly with Peretz, an old-skool socialist with a history of close camaraderie with his associates (read: corruption), Labor will find it difficult to deliver a real message to which the people will respond. The election of Peretz indicates that Labor is falling back on their traditional economic values, which are increasingly out of touch with the Israeli people. They are so desperate to retain their voice, that they have chosen one which is irrelevant.

The catch is the new party. If Sharon is truly ousted from within, the Centrist Party may collapse and leave the old two party circus. However, if Sharon is a viable leader (which I believe he is) this may constitute the death-spell for Labor.


Mr. HaLevi said...

Zev, you are scaring me. Are you seriously in favor of Sharon? He behaves like a dictator, he went against three separate referendums that he lost until he finally won a vote by using outside support. he has ruined what was left of the pathetic democracy that Israel has. There is no longer a legislative branch worth a damn, which was only highlighted the other day when it came to light that in addition to everything else, the legislature lost control of spending since Sharon just gave away money that he wasn't legally allowed to allot.

As for your premise that Peretz and socialist ideas in the marketplace are dead in israel, I just wish that were true.

I have no idea how you can be spewing such nonsense. Dude, read the news - look at Sharon and his new Kadima party. They are alreayd backing away from the reforms under Netanyahu, saying they too care about the poor. Labor is polling nearly 30 seast under Peretz, just behind Sharon, and if history is anything to go by, Sharon's party will plummet in the coming months as all new parties do. labor under Peretz could very well win, a scary thought.

Worse perhaps, is that even the likud is now backpeddling. Shalom and Mofaz are attacking Netanyahu for the one policy that the likud should be proud of, its economic reforms. Instead of saying, look how we created competition, brought in investment, began lowering taxes, increased effieciency, started customer service since monopolies are being destroyed, Shalom and Mofaz are saying that if Netanyahu wins, then the likud loses big, since everyone in israel is scared of his policies and thinks it will result in poverty. Jerusalem Post and Haaretz have had EACH three editorials about this in the last 2 days. Caroline Glick has also written some excellent pieces on the subject that you should look up. Likud, instead of running on a free market basis, is also looking to present a socialist face, in fact, Peretz's election is causing EVERY major party to present a socialist economic agenda, which as you correctly say, would be disastrous for israel. But since when has disastrous policies stopped Israel before?

the only glimmer of hope in all this is that there is a chance that the right wing, including what is left of likud, may unite under one bloc. If that hapenned, and Netanyahu beats Shalom as he should, and the right adopts a free market policy in addition to the stated policy on the land of israel etc. it COULD lead to the creation of a Republican style party, secular but with ties to the religious right and conservative on nearly all issues. This could be terrific for Israel. In addition, though I think Peretz is a demagogue and dangerous, he at least may force the beginning of a discussion about economic policy, of which israelis are frighteningly ignorant. Most think Netanayahu caused major poverty, when in fact everyone in business says he prevented the kind of collapse that hapenned in Argentina and did it despite a war. I don't like Netanyahu for much, but I credit him on his economic policies. In opposition, Peretz with his general strikes cost tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars which the country could ill afford, yet people love him and think he is their savior. Dumbasses, but what can you do?

I agree that Sharon's departure may be good, but for different reasons, hopefully it results in real discussions and a clear choice for the people, though the difference between Sharon adn Peretz is minimal. what is scary is that the choice will likely be self destruction.

One other issue that is beginning to be discussed, largely becuase of the way that Sharon abused power, is the creation of checks and balances and regional elections. Even Haaretz has picked up on this, and if it happens, it could save israel and the democracy. it is the only issue I think that can create real change, since the elections right now are controlled by central committee's who comprise all of maybe 20,000 people including all the major parties.

Mr. HaLevi said...

Here is yet another editorial about economic stupidity among Israelis from today's jerusalem post, I'm sure more will follow in all the major papers.