On 17th March, electors in Israel have a choice. They have a choice, between voting for change in the form of a government led by Labour leader Isaac Herzog, and the Zionist Union, or voting again for a do nothing Likud led government. Indeed, the Likud must be the only governing party in the history of western democracy in modern times with such contempt for the electorate that it has not even produced an election manifesto outlining what they hope to achieve in government. This is also an indictment of the lack of vision the Likud has for the future of Israel. If re-elected, it will be business as usual, under a fourth Netanyahu government!
But what are the implications of business as usual. On every issue the Likud has failed the people of Israel. Poverty and inequality have increased on Netanyahu’s watch to a point where according to the OECD. Israel has the highest level of poverty amongst all OECD countries and in terms of income inequality. Israel is the fifth most unequal society of all OECD countries. What this means in practice, is that 35% of all children in Israel are growing up in poor households, some of whom do not receive two hot meals a day.
And since Netanyahu has been in office, house prices according to the recent state controller’s report have soured by 55%. It is impossible for young couples to get onto the property ladder. It is true that all western societies are facing similar problems including the country that I know best, the United Kingdom, but whereas the average number of monthly salaries needed to buy a house in the UK is 64 months. In Israel, it is more than double what it is in the UK, a staggering 148 months. And Netanyahu’s response is all talk, but no action, because he simply doesn’t care. The only thing he cares about is remaining Prime Minister.
The Zionist Union has developed policies to meet these challenges. 300,000 affordable houses will be built over a four year period, food prices will be slashed by “issuing a tender for a national distribution network for small food producers, with government support. This network will permit competition with big manufacturers and will significantly reduce consumer prices” and there will be greater enforcement of a law breaking up monopolies in the food industry. In my view a Herzog led government should go even further, by slashing Vat to 0% on all food and drink excluding spirits. This would overnight slash the food budget for every citizen of Israel. There will also be more investment in education, including higher education and health, a fair rental law, and increases to the state pension which will the end the disgrace of Holocaust survivors living in poverty in the Jewish state.
The Zionist Union has a very strong defence team led by Amos Yadlin, the Union’s nomination for Defence Minister. A former head of the IDF’s military intelligence, he was one of 8 pilots to have bombed the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981, and thus, not only played a major role in contributing to the continued existence of Israel, but indeed to international peace and security.
Herzog has made it clear that no Israeli government can tolerate a nuclear armed Iran, but the difference between him and Netanyahu is that he will improve relations with the US, will work with the international community, will show moderation when it comes to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and in return there is a much greater chance that the international community will listen and take on board Israel’s concerns when it comes to Iran, which will hopefully lead to a good agreement, but Herzog has also made it clear, no options are off the table.
On the 17th of March when I go to the polling station to cast my vote for the Zionist Union. I will be voting for change, for hope, and for a better Israel. It is time for change. It is time for a Herzog led government.