Twelve Reasons Why I Will Not Be Voting for Netanyahu

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1. Pension funds used to be limited to a 0.4% annual service charge. Under Netanyahu that figure was changed to 1.8%.
2. Water corporations. Water bills used to be collected by the Israel water company or by municipalities. Netanyahu established water corporations whose only function is to collect bills for water. The legislation was written so that the corporations could cut off water for non-payment of bills. The old legislation did not allow cutting off water to families in poverty. Currently some 10,000 families a month get their water cut off.
3. Privatizations. Netanyahu is a big believer in deregulation and privatization. State-run homes for the aged have been privatized, and TV reports have shown how the will to increase profits debases service and the people who need them. Places that, for example, force geriatric patients to shower at 4 or 5 a.m. Similar deterioration can be found in institutions for kids with special needs.
Road construction has been put into private hands, and these roads (e.g. Road 6) have become toll roads. The owner of this particular toll road is Shari Arison through Bank Hapoalim; the bank also owns the exorbitantly priced Carmel Mountain tunnel. Water purification has been privatized, and is owned by one Mr. Tshuvah, who is one of the leading tycoons here and also owns the big natural gas field off the coast. Mr. Tshuvah has been able to get an exceptionally good deal compared to other countries on his level of taxation, and has negotiated a contract that willpay him six dollars per unit of gas that costs $1.50 to produce.
4. A poverty level of 20% overall, 35% of children, something similar for pensioners – among the highest in the OECD. There are foci of poverty: the ultra-orthodox and Arab populations especially. However, there is also the relatively new phenomenon of the working poor. Anyone on or near minimum wage cannot pay for their basic needs with their salaries. The biggest employer in Israel is the security business, and it pays minimum wage. Younger daughter Michal, who has completed a two year certificate course in art and art educationhas a regular job at near minimum wage (in a privatized institution, but government is often no better; the railways hire through manpower companies). In order to ‘finish the month,’ as the saying is here, she has had to find additional work, which means a 10 to 12 hour workday. Most of her friends are in the same situation. Some are talking about leaving Israel,for the obvious reason thatthis is no way to live.
The above-mentioned manpower companies can legally pay less than minimum wage. Guess who ends up with those kinds of jobs?
5. Health care. Israel has universal health care for its citizens. Mr. Netanyahu Prefers private enterprise to state responsibility. It’s not easy to eliminate a popular service like universal health care. So his governments have been underfunding it. The average in the OECD for programs of universal/socialized health care is 8% of GNP. In Israel 5% of GNP goes to health. Results: overcrowded hospitals with inadequate staff. During the winter patients end up in corridors and they measure hospital capacities in terms of excess. 130% of capacity in hospital a, 150% of capacity in hospital b, and so on.
As such, public health is not performing adequately – nor could it, given the resources it is allocated. Enter the private, for-profit sector. Israelis today pay about 10 billion shekels annually for ‘supplementary’ health insurance, and there are some private, for-profit hospitals. In addition, public hospitals allow private services for wealthy foreigners (I’m sure they’re much cheaper than comparable services in the states) and for Israelis willing to pay. The result: a big payday for doctors working privately (in public hospitals) and longer waits for locals who have standard coverage.
6. Housing. It takes a person an average of 152 monthly salaries to buy an apartment here in Israel. In Europe and the U.S. It takes between 50% and 70% of that. Mr. Netanyahu does not believe in public housing, and thinks that things work out best when left to the market. The market works in terms of profit. So while we need about 50,000 new units a year to keep pace with population growth, we are getting about 30,000, and most of these are beyond the means of families starting out. It is more profitable to build and sell large luxury apartments. So in recent years only 5% of new apartments are of the smaller and more affordable variety (three rooms). The other 95% are for four, five and more rooms, which doesn’t make things easier for people starting out.
The cost of apartments here is influenced by very high government taxes, a very slow bureaucracy, and divided jurisdictions, not mention garden-variety corruption. The problem is complicated. But six years is enough to figure it out, if you care. A number of years ago there was a huge social protest about the housing situation, with tens of thousands camping out in Tel Aviv and hundreds of thousands attending demonstrations. Last week the state comptroller issued a report on housing which was very critical of the government. The last person to have done anything positive about housing was Sharon, who focused all conflicting authorities in his own office and got on with it. He recognized the problem and did something about it. When asked about the comptroller’s report Mr. N. said he would study it and then launched into the dangers of Iranian nuclear weapons.
7. Israel as a Jewish state. During the last year Mr. N.’s government has been promoting a bill to declare Israel a Jewish state – now, the declaration of independence declares Israel to be a Jewish state. The law favors Jews above non-Jews when it comes to residence. So why do we need a new law to restate what we already know? Turns out the declaration of independence recognizes equal rights for all Israeli citizens. The new law would not. So it’s really aimed against non-Jews.
Defining Jewish is no easy matter. For the so-called religious parties it is a matter of bringing the state into line with religious law, and disliking non-Jews. For a person with some sort of consciousness of what Jews have been through as a minority, being Jewish involves learning the lessons of those experiences. For instance, when the German state began persecuting Jews, most of the rest of the world wasn’t interested. Some countries set up internment camps for Jews fleeing German persecution. Being a refugee was treated as a crime. Now over two million people have been murdered in Darfur. Many others have fled and become refugees. Some have come to Israel. Our government has set up an internment camp in the Negev for such refugees, and imprisons them for up to three years, no trial necessary. To its credit the supreme court has found this unconstitutional. The government has come back with slightly modified versions of the same ‘law.’
Israel is a small country and cannot absorb tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of refugees. But it could offer temporary asylum and try to work with other countries to alleviate the problem. This, I think, would be a Jewish approach. It is not the approach Mr. Netanyahu and company have opted for.
Israel does have a process for granting recognized refugee status. Of the tens of thousands of refugees from Africa, so far four have been granted this status.
8. The conquered territories. Since 1967 Israel has been colonizing the territories it conquered in the Six-Day War. The Arab population is subject to police state control and frequent acts of hooliganism (‘price tag’ actions) by local fanatical ‘Jewish’ Israelis, including desecration of mosques. Mr. Netanyahu’s government pours billions of shekels a year into the ‘settlements’ there, money that could be used better inside the green line.
Mr. N. and company intend to keep the conquered territories come what may. The only things that can result from this are:
A) An enfranchised Arab majority between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, which will necessarily mean the end of Israel as a Jewish state.
B) Denial of basic political and civil rights to the Arabs of the territories that will make Israel an apartheid state. This seems to be the tendency of Netanyahu and his allies.
Netanyahu claims over and over that there is no one to negotiate with on the Palestinian side. This is correct with respect to Hamas. It is not correct with respect to the West Bank. But Netanyahu desperately needs it to be, because the only thing to talk about is Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, and Netanyahu really doesn’t want to talk about that. He is committed to keeping the West Bank. See options A and B above.
9. The police. It turns out from recent reports on TV here that the police have serious problems, or that we have serious problems with the police – but most are cases within the police force. Nearly half the regional police commanders have been fired because of sexual harassment. The other bad news is the extent of police brutality that has come to light, and the systematic cover-ups. The main victims of police violence are Arabs (of course), immigrants from Ethiopia, the ultra-orthodox and leftist demonstrators. Anyone complaining of police brutality receives a notice from the police that they are being charged with attacking a police officer.
Now, all of this is not the direct responsibility of Mr. N. But it is Netanyahu who gave the police portfolio to Mr. Lieberman’s party, and he made a very unfortunate appointment in giving Mr. Lieberman the foreign affairs portfolio. He may not have had much choice, given the way coalitions are put together. Still, it says a good deal about his friends.
10. Intervention in Israel prize awards. Netanyahu decided that the judges for certain Israel prizes, among them literature, were not patriotic enough, and dismissed them. Stalin could not have done better. Netanyahu was forced to back down. Many of the judges and recipients refused to participate or accept the Israel prize in protest.
11. Speech to the House and Senate on Iran nuclear deal.
A) Reasonable if Israel would accept a French or British or American politician coming to lecture the Knesset on a matter of Israeli policy. So far this hasn’t happened, and it is unlikely that it will.
B) Seems to overlook the point that the U.S. is a sovereign state that makes its own policy decisions, which in this case happen to focus on the White House, not the House and Senate. Is Netanyahu as well-informed as he needs to be on this?
C) From the point of view of imposing harsher sanctions on Iran it is counter-productive. Democrats, whose votes are needed to get the majority necessary to override a veto, have now lined up behind the White House and the desired majority has disappeared.
D) As the speech can have no practical influence on American decision making, it is clearly an election maneuver. Given the way things look on issues important to the electorate here, such as housing, health care, the territories, starvation, salaries and the like, it may make electoral sense for Netanyahu to talk about Iran.
12. Security. Fortunately Israeli security does not depend on politicians. It depends on the IDF and two main intelligence organizations. Of course neither are infallible, as we found in 1973. But on the whole they are competent and professional. Whoever forms the next government, the security establishment will remain the same and be fairly reliable. We would be in big trouble if our politicians ignored the security professionals. Netanyahu has not always got on well with said professionals. The past chief of staff warned against an attack on Iran. After the last Gaza operation, before elections were called, 185 retired generals and commanders of the IDF of various political parties, including the Likud, wrote Netanyahu an open letter calling for a political follow up to the operation. To date they have not received an answer, either public or private. It is not unusual for politicians to use fears about security to further their standing. This might even be happening here. Refusal to consider a deal with the other side (Mr. Abbas & co) will necessarily continue the conflict, and so far no state has survived unending war and conflict. There are dangers both ways. Informed military personnel have publicly stated that Mr. N’s way is probably the one that will end worse.
Now, if I were a finance company, or a tycoon or a greater land of Israel-er, or a settler or in a state of chronic paranoia, or if I wanted Israel to become a society of serfs and masters, I might vote for Netanyahu and associates. But as I am none of those things, and do not want to see the gap between rich and poor grow even more, I am thinking that I will not.

Harvey Chisick was born in London, England, in 1946. He grew up in Vancouver, Canada. In 1968 he received his B.A. from the university of British Columbia, and in 1974 his Ph.D. from the Johns Hopkins University. He moved to Israel in 1980 and taught history at the University of Haifa until his recent retirement. He served as a reservist in the IDF from 1984 until 1996. He is married and has two children.