Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – The new government of Israel under the leadership of Binyamin Netanyahu, which includes the fascist Religious Zionism and Jewish Power blocs, has begun chasing away businesses and investors, has provoked hundreds of thousands of Israelis to protest, and has led to an end of security cooperation with the Palestinian Authority, a legacy of the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords, which are now a dead letter.
Netanyahu, a man of the far right himself, takes pride in having dismantled the old, Labor-socialist Israel, replacing it with, he argues, a vigorous high tech private sector. In turn, he asserts, Israel has become more prosperous and has become an attractive partner for firms in places like the United Arab Emirates, which made it easier to conclude the Abraham Accords with that country, along with Bahrain and Morocco. He also says that economic growth can solve the problems in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian West Bank, since he’s sure the Palestinians would give up political aspirations if only they were just very well off.
Netanyahu’s Neoliberalism has had admitted successes, probably contributing to the country being the “start-up nation.” It is apparently all too easy, however, to overlook the toxic side-effects of right wing policies on the country.
The prominent non-governmental organization Latet published a study last month showing that the poverty rate in Israel has skyrocketed to nearly 28%, Some 21% of Israelis are food insecure, It is hard being old and retired in Israel, despite retirement stipends, so that 75% of retirement-age Israelis live in poverty.
The COVID-19 pandemic damaged the economic prospects of many Israelis. I-24 writes, “A total of 830,000 households in Israel are reported to be in economic distress, which is 131,000 more families than before the Covid pandemic.”
The Israelis who are not poverty-stricken but are just on the edge of being so have increased from 14% to 21% since the end of 2019.
Netanyahu’s policies are not lifting all boats, but have created more dot.com billionaires. The downward mobility of so many Israelis is heightening tensions. Among the least well off Israelis are the 21% who are of Palestinian heritage, including the Bedouin in the Negev. This economic pressure has increased tensions between the Jewish majority and the Palestinian-Israeli minority inside the country, with the latter complaining that their neighborhoods are not being policed properly, leaving them to live with a high crime rate.
In his most recent incarnation, Netanyahu now wants to gut the independence of the courts. Currently the judiciary and legislature cooperate in putting judges on the bench. Netanyahu wants a bigger role for such appointments for the prime minister and parliament. He also wants to allow parliament to reinstate a by simple majority any law struck down by the courts as unconstitutional.
Netanyahu is frustrated at being on trial for corruption himself, and at having the court block some far right wing policies toward the Palestinians.
Investors don’t like to see the demise of judicial independence, because they want to be sure their investments and businesses will be treated fairly and impartially by the courts. If the judges are just going to be puppets of the prime minister and his party, they could find themselves disadvantaged in lawsuits. This consideration may affect foreign investors most of all.
Philissa Cramer at the Jewish Telegraphic Agency writes that) Eynat Guez, the CEO and founder of Papaya Global, which has software to make payroll payments easier that is used by Microsoft and Toyota, announced this week that she and her company are leaving Israel over the country’s political direction. The company is valued at $3.7 billion. Guez has been active in the massive Tel Aviv demonstrations against Netanyahu.
Another, smaller firm, Disruptive AI, also announced Thursday that it is leaving Israel.
Guez says that investors don’t want to put their money into a place where democracy is dangerously declining.
So it could well be that Netanyahu has to choose between prosperity and neutering the courts. And without growing prosperity his entire political philosophy crashes and burns.
Not only is this far right wing plot against judicial independence upsetting the investment apple cart, but so too are the hard line policies toward occupied Palestinians being implemented by extremists such as Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir. It is certain that they will provoke more violence in the Palestinian West Bank, into which they want to bring even more Israeli squatters, seizing private Palestinian land for these homes.
In the town and refugee camp of Jenin, Netanyahu’s statements on projecting Jewish sovereignty everywhere have been read by activists as a threat of annexation.
Some youth in the Jenin town and refugee camp have formed the Lion’s Den resistance group, and in turn Israeli security forces have targeted these miilitants.
Israeli occupation policies have cost the Palestinians billions.
The new hard liners in charge of the West Bank are just sending in security forces to kill or arrest Palestinians who are defiant toward their government, dubbing them “terrorists.”
On Thursday, the Israeli military launched a deadly raid on Jenin, killing 7 Lion’s Den militants but also killing two or three noncombatants, including teenagers and a grandmother. Reckless military action that kills noncombatants is a war crime.
Angered by the new government’s policies, the Palestine Authority announced that it was ceasing security cooperation with Israel.
Three strikes and you’re out. Netanyahu’s attempt to combine Neoliberalism with fascism has put hundreds of thousands of people in the streets against him inside Israel. It is spooking the private sector, which is beginning to relocate the the U.S. And the Palestinians will not in fact sell their birthright for a limited salary raise.
This scenario is less like a new technology showcase and more like a third world failed state.