Security has always been the paramount issue in Israeli politics simply because so many people want to wipe the country off the map. No other country in the world faces an existential threat like Israel does. Netanyahu knows this. He also knows Israelis trust him to manage the country’s security than any other leader running in the current election campaign. But what Netanyahu has not seemed to grasp is that security isn’t the only issue in this election. Indeed, socioeconomic issues have become just as important, if not more so. Why? Well, because over the years, it’s become more and more difficult for average Israelis to feed, clothe and house themselves. Netanyahu is well aware of the skyrocketing cost of living in Israel, but he has so far failed to adequately address it, which makes me worry that he may lose the election, not because he lacks the credibility to deal with Israel’s security threats, but because he has failed to show Israelis that he cares about their socioeconomic well-being.
Back in July last year, I wrote a post about Israel’s deteriorating socioeconomic situation, entitled Israel’s Other Security Problem, in which I pointed out that Israel has the highest poverty rate in the developed world according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). So why is there so much poverty in Israel? The simple answer consists of three words: cost of living. Over the years, despite rapid economic growth, the cost of everything that Israelis need to live has skyrocketed, but Israelis’ wages have not kept up. And there is one particular living expense that has grabbed more headlines in Israel than any other socioeconomic issue: the cost of housing.
It is now unaffordable for many if not most Israelis to buy a home. The situation is not much better for renters either, as rents throughout the country have increased significantly along with the purchase price of homes. A recent report about the housing situation in Israel concluded that Netanyahu did little to address the issue (see: State Comptroller: Housing Crisis Spiraled and Netanyahu did Little). Adding to Israelis’ housing woes is the rising cost of feeding their families and the deterioration of the country’s health and education systems, all of which have been in the news during the current election campaign. Clearly, the Prime Minister needs to demonstrate to the Israeli voters that he can do better, otherwise he may find himself out of office.