There is no economic left in Israel. If so, it would resent the offensive remarks recently made against labor unions. According to the polls, the four major parties in the upcoming Knesset will be: Likud, Tikvah Chadasha (Likud defector Gideon Sa’ar’s new center-right party), Yesh Atid (a center-left party led by the anti-Bibi Yair Lapid) and Yamina (Naftali Bennett’s right-wing party). They all speak "fluent neo-liberal," as if nothing has changed in the global economic discourse in the past year.
Their speech is always in praise of the "private market," and in favor of "lean state budgets," speaking to the "self-employed." Look at the IMF and the World Bank, which call for support for organized labor and public systems, look at Israel, and note the gaps.
Joe Biden chose Andrea Hall to recite the Pledge of Allegiance at his presidential inauguration on Wednesday. The leader of the largest economic, capitalist power in the world, chose Hall and no other.
Hall heads the local fire department in South Fulton, Georgia. She’s been a firefighter for 28 years, she is a public sector worker and chair of the union. This choice of the American president symbolizes his support for the unions and symbolizes a global shift.
"I will not apologize for being a union man," the U.S. president-elect said at the opening rally of his 2019 election campaign. “We need a government that supports the building up of workers' organizations. Joe Biden is the right candidate," said Sean McGarvey, chairman of the American Building Trades Union, which represents three million workers. The U.S election campaign saw its major candidates courting the support of the trade unions.
Whereas here, In Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu can be heard in a recorded conversation saying that the power of the unions should be "sterilized." His remarks are the opposite of the policy led by Likud over the past decade. These are years in which the Histadrut has become stronger and reached unprecedented achievements. But Netanyahu apparently understood that the self-employed were fleeing to the Saar and Bennett’s parties.
In Yamina’s platform, there is a section which reads: “We will abolish criminal legislation against business owners’ behavior toward their employees. It’s unacceptable that business owners cannot sleep at night for fear of sitting in jail.”
The Kohelet Forum, a neoliberal conservative think tank, is synonymous with Gideon Saar. Idan Eretz, formerly active in the Kohelet Forum, is the current economic advisor to Saar’s Tikvah Chadasha party. At the beginning of the epidemic, the same forum published a document stating that "the evolutionary process" of the economy must not be stopped.
According to this, increasing the health budget should be avoided, weak businesses should be allowed to go under, and the government should not be allowed to intervene in the economy. Who knows how many tens of thousands of Israelis would have died from coronavirus if these ideas had been taken seriously.
Netanyahu tried to minimize damage and called to reassure Histadrut chairman Arnon Bar-David, chairman of the airports workers’ union and chairman of the aerospace industry union.
In Bibi’s eyes, his campaign should appeal to the "base" of the self-employed, but not give up the Likud's electorate, which consists mostly of middle-class workers. In short, mostly workers who are unionized in the Histadrut.
Every party leader who is running for the next Knesset should ask Michal Lugassi, chairman of the Ashdod Port Union, to be present at his inauguration in the next Knesset. Like Biden.
Instead, Prime Minister Netanyahu insulted the port workers and provoked Lugassi’s following remarks made to the Ashdod 10 news site: “Bibi embarrassed us and hurt us in his remarks against us that we are a monopoly and because of us the self-employed suffer. Without us unions, there would be no organized labor and the workers would suffer. So Bibi can forget about our support for him in the election.”
After the four successful parties with the polished English, come the parties that represent the poorest and weakest stratum in the State of Israel: the Joint List (the parties representing Arab Israelis), Shas (representing the Mizrachi Haredi community) and United Torah Judaism (representing the Ashkenazi Haredi community).
At the end of the list, there are fragments of left-center parties: Blue and White (Benny Gantz’ center-left party), the Israelis (a new party founded by Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai), and Meretz (a left-wing party), which are all struggling to pass the threshold and may not survive the upcoming elections. Who and what do they represent?
They too do not speak "fluent union." They do not see union members as their audience. They do not claim to represent public sector workers. The left is fed up with ideas of real social justice and the protection of working people. There is equality, obviously, in political correctness. In our pockets? In our salaries? In employment security? That doesn’t interest them.
Leftists in Israel celebrated Biden's victory in the presidential election as if they themselves had won. But they have nothing in common with him. Biden is talking about a $ 1.9 trillion budget plan, increased universal grants, strengthening organized labor and unions as a way to grow the economy. Israel has much to learn from his example.