On Tuesday, the people of Israel will decide who will govern the country. We take in our hands an ID card, a piece of paper, an envelope and in so doing, entrust the fate and well-being of the nation for the coming years.
As I have toured Israel with Likud Beytenu candidates over the past weeks, I have had the greatest privilege to speak with Anglo voters across the country. I have been met with support, questions and concerns. As we head into the final hours of the campaign, and countdown to that all important election day, I wanted to share with you the most repeated discussions I have had, and help expose some of the big myths of this election.
1. Top of the list is the claim that I have heard the most often. “Bibi is going to be Prime Minister, so I want to vote for the kind of government he will lead”. This is the most flawed suggestion, and one against which history carries a stark warning. To assume that the biggest party on the Right can coast into the next government, and then – having lost seats to the Right – simply form a government to include those mandates as part of another party is unrealistic. The more likely result is a decrease in the ability to rule and govern efficiently. In a coalition government, less mandates mean the need for a wider coalition to ensure that no single party is able to break the coalition. Being a minority in your own government means that important reforms and crucial legislation become more difficult to pass as each party requires their own incentive, and ultimately the Prime Minister spends more time managing the government than running the country.
Moreover, the reality is that if Shelly Yachimovich’s Labor party enjoys a late surge, it is far from inconceivable that President Peres will turn to his old political home to lead the next government and ask her to be Prime Minister. A point that this very publication has reported as a distinct possibility.
If you want Netanyahu to be the Prime Minister, then vote for him.
It is far from inconceivable that President Peres will turn to his old political home (Labor) to lead the next government.
2. The next concern I have heard is that the government has not been productive. To dispel this myth, I do not usually have to venture far into the list of major achievements that this government – despite having to manage the fluctuations of a vast coalition – has managed to undertake and implement.
They include socio-economic achievements such as introducing free education from the age of three, free dental care up to the age of twelve and doubling the grant for soldiers upon the completion of their service. There are also economic successes such as lowering unemployment and creating 350,000 new jobs, increasing tourism to Israel to an all-time high of 3.5 million in 2012 and enacting a revolution in the cell phone industry resulting in massive savings for consumers. Furthermore there are security and diplomatic accomplishments including ending the wave of illegal immigrants, building more than ever in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria, and perhaps most significantly, building an international consensus against Iran’s ambitions to develop nuclear weapons.
As both Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Liberman have made clear, this is a Government that “comes with receipts“.
There are key issues yet to be addressed. Notably equalizing the national burden, affordable housing and electoral reform. I agree, these remain on the shopping list, but the reputation of this government precedes it, and there can be no doubting the ability or drive of the Netanyahu led government to achieve these goals too.
Voting for a small party weakens Israel.
If you share these concerns – as many of you with whom I have spoken do – the only way to be sure they are addressed is by voting for a strong Likud Beytenu. Without the necessary mandates, Netanyahu will be forced to form another wide ranging coalition where smaller parties will make passing such legislation needlessly difficult. It is for this reason, that voting for a small party weakens Israel.
3. Third among the most heard concerns from the campaign trail, is that Israel is more isolated internationally than ever before, and that this situation only stands to deteriorate. First this simply is not the case. Under Avigdor Liberman, Israel’s Foreign Ministry opened up more diplomatic missions and representations than his predecessors. We entered the OECD, CERN and enjoyed an upgrade in trade relations with the European Union – an upgrade that was frozen under Livni.
As Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman received more official delegations, made more overseas visits, signed more free trade agreements and bilateral agreements than any of his predecessors.
Other achievements were working with the United Nations Palmer Commission which unequivocally reaffirmed the legality of the blockade on Gaza, diplomatically preventing any further flotillas and “flytillas”, helping to overturn the narrow universal jurisdiction law in the UK and ensuring Western rejection of the Durban conference.
Just as importantly, Liberman reformed the Foreign Ministry and introduced a far more holistic foreign policy aimed at opening up relations with a great many more nations, by separating Israel’s bilateral relations from the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This has led to a massive increase in bilateral trade relations as well as scientific and educational cooperation – even when those nations complained about building settlements.
Added to which, Israel successfully blocked two attempts by the Palestinians to gain full member status at the UN, leaving them with the much lesser consolation prize of non-member status at the General Assembly. We were also able to turn the experience of Cast Lead on its head, and instead received international and public support for Operation Pillar of Defense. But perhaps above all of this, Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Liberman have been on the front-line in building a worldwide consensus in opposition to a nuclear armed Iran, and the genocidal aims of Ahmadinejad.
Israel is not isolated; it is a world leader in academic, medical, security, hi-tech and environmental development. Under this government, Israel has benefited from increased and expanded international cooperation and global recognition.
Are there those who wish to boycott us? Yes. Are there lunatics in Iran – and closer to home – who wish to kill us? Yes. Are there efforts to undermine Israel on the international stage? Yes. And this government has thwarted and overcome each and every attempt to do so.
For the great majority of those with whom I have had these conversations and variations of these themes, the conclusion has been that there is only one logical decision, and that is to vote (Machal) Likud Beytenu on Tuesday. I do not believe this is because of my debating skills, much more because when armed with all the facts, and when the slogans and gloss are put to one side, this government has made tremendous improvements to life in Israel and deserves the opportunity to continue to do so.