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Israelis Have Already Voted for the Death of the Economic Right

The libertarian economic agenda pushed by Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked has led to the end of the economic right’s role in the political game | It seems that Israelis are fundamentally in favor of social consciousness, workers' rights and unionization, and solidarity

Keren Ofek, Chairman of the Partner Workers' Union. (Photo: private album)
Keren Ofek, Chairman of the Partner Workers' Union. (Photo: private album)
By Keren Ofek

The deadlock between the political blocs may repeat itself in the current election campaign, but according to polls and trends, it can already be said with near certainty: the economic right is collapsing and will not be part of the next Knesset.

The two parties born of fragments of the dismantled Yamina party – MK Ayelet Shaked's 'The Zionist Spirit – HaBayit HaYehudi' party and MK Abir Kara's 'Economic Freedom' party – are failing to pass the electoral threshold in polling. Additionally, former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s 'Singapore Plan,' which aimed to implement libertarian privatization policies, has been shelved as a campaign priority and replaced by a right-wing conservative agenda on the issue of the judicial system.

So why is it that the economic right does not enjoy the same upward trend that the hawkish-political right has been enjoying for the past two decades in Israel? Because Israelis are fundamentally in favor of being socially conscious, support workers' rights and unionization, oppose predatory privatization, and believe in solidarity. Large parts of the Israeli workforce are unionized, and do not share a Republican worldview that seems detached and distant to them. The campaigns promoted by right-wing think tanks which aim to attach an aura of progressiveness to libertarian policies have not penetrated Israeli society. The attempts by Abir Kara, Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked to lead a libertarian economic agenda have led to the end of the economic right as a player in the political game.

The right-wing economic agenda is dead, and over the years, fewer right-wing voters in Israel are identifying as 'capitalists,' and for good reason. Right-wing voters are suffering from stark wage gaps and the rising cost of living; 26% of them earn an above-average income, compared to 38% of centrist voters and 33% of left-wing voters.

Although economic issues were barely included in the political agenda in the current election campaign, pressing economic realities are still a chief concern for every home in Israel. With dramatic price increases and soaring inflation, this variable plays a significant role in the everyday lives of Israeli citizens.

The last major economic crisis, which culminated in widespread social protests in 2011, led to a huge wave of unionization in the Israeli economy, including in the finance, insurance, and cellphone industries, because the Israeli public believes in social solidarity and in protecting workers. The crisis that is about to begin may lead to yet another wave of unionization. This is not just an Israeli phenomenon; there is now more serious left-wing economic discourse around the world, which challenges the axioms of neoliberalism and is gaining power and sympathy among many populations.

There is no doubt that this economic agenda can also be a tie-breaker in the political game, because the public is beginning to feel in its wallet and in its bank account the need to protect its most valuable resources: livelihoods and fair working conditions.

The author is chairwoman of the Partner Workers’ Union, a leading labor organization in the telecommunications industry.

This article was translated from Hebrew by Benji Sharp.

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