I have been warning for months that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu might lose the March 17 election. In November 2014, before elections were called, I noted that Netanyahu had been elected on a promise to oppose Barack Obama, and now that Obama’s lame-duck term had begun, Israeli voters might feel secure enough to look elsewhere for leadership. What they–and indeed many Americans–failed to see was how much damage Obama still intended to cause.
I am old enough to remember the euphoria that seized Israel and American Jews with the election of Labor and Yitzchak Rabin in 1992. Here was a chance to move past a testy relationship with then-President George H.W. Bush, and a chance to test a more peace-oriented posture towards the Palestinians, a hopeful outlook for a post-Cold War, post-Gulf War world. Those hopes were elevated in 1993 by the Oslo process, and dashed years later by the Palestinians’ refusal to make peace.
Now Israel seems seized by similar wishful thinking–the idea that the world, starting with Obama’s Oval Office–will love Israel if it just rids itself of its pesky right-wing leader. That the past to international respectability is through appeasing Israel’s enemies–not Iran or the Arabs, this time, but rather the left-wing intellectuals denouncing Israel on campuses and in the New York Review of Books. That the solution to Israel’s economic woes–such as they are–is vague “change.”
Of all these fantasies, the last is actually the craziest. Israel has high costs of living, especially in housing, for a number of reasons, but there is no conceivable government intervention–none!–that would make the problem better instead of worse. Netanyahu’s opponents are running hard on the issue, but have no answers.
I have often said that Western hostility to the free market is a bigger threat to Israeli strength than mere anti-Israel bias. And thus it is proving in Israel itself.