Romneyland on the Mediterranean

Gershom Gorenberg

So Mitt is coming. How appropriate. I explain in The American Prospect:

If Mitt Romney visits Israel this summer, it’s a safe guess that his tour will avoid demonstrations against the government’s economic policies. When Mitt and Bibi dine together, the Israeli prime minister probably won’t show clips of riot cops dragging away Daphni Leef, the woman who ignited the economic protests, as she tries to re-establish a tent encampment in downtown Tel Aviv. Meeting the media, Romney may mention his old friendship with Benjamin Netanyahu, which dates back to the time when the two of them, fresh from business school, worked at the Boston Consulting Group. Journalists will dutifully ask him and Netanyahu about Iran, ignoring the fact that Israel has an economy and that running it is Netanyahu’s passion.

This is a shame, because Israel can be seen as a laboratory where tests have been conducted in managing a country as if Bain Capital had bought itand the lab results aren’t pretty.

To be fair, the Israeli government has followed free-market orthodoxy since the 1980s, whether the Likud or another party has been in power. Left and right  came to refer exclusively to favoring a two-state solution or opposing it. Think of how cultural issues sometimes define liberal and conservative in America, drowning out economic positions. Then imagine a much harsher version of that reality, and call it “Israel.”

But if other politicians have treated the need for budget-cutting, privatization, and union-squashing as verities you’d look silly denying, Benjamin Netanyahu is a true believer. In two terms as prime minister, and as finance minister in between, he has done his best to eliminate the last traces of Israeli social democracy. A particularly effective step was the tax plan he put into effect as finance minister: a steady, year-to-year reduction of personal and corporate income taxes. Since half of Israeli workers make less than the threshold to pay income tax at all, the benefits went entirely to the well-off, and the wealthiest received the largest windfall.

Read the rest here.

1 thought on “Romneyland on the Mediterranean”

  1. Is it possible for a really new party to emerge in Israel, assuming this summer unleashes another high level of street protest? Israeli party creation is an elite game (usually is everywhere), but can some marginalized elite find a way to mobilize economic discontent in a vote swing? Israel has one of the most diverse set of parties of any parliamentary system, but I have the impression that that diversity is locked. Why?

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