Israel’s Current Government Aims to Imitate Benjamin Netanyahu’s Great Economic Transformation

The Knesset is considering an ambitious budget bill that promises sweeping reform. As Haviv Rettig Gur explains:

This bill . . . upends the old ways of thinking about the Israeli state’s responsibility for its Arab citizens; takes a sledgehammer to structural obstructions that have long plagued the Israeli economy, from protectionist import policies to state price-setting on basic staples; reimagines Israel’s public-transportation network and environmental commitments; . . . opens the banking system to more competition, especially online and via mobile apps; dramatically increases spending on health and defense while cutting expenditures on most other things; and promises a major overhaul and streamlining of governmental red tape.

To Gur, there are only two precedents in Israeli history for such radical change, each of which followed a major economic crisis, perhaps parallel to that caused by the coronavirus: the first was in 1985, when a unity government similar to the current one ended crippling inflation by wresting the country away from the socialism of its founders. The second was in 2003, when then-finance minister Benjamin Netanyahu enacted a further program of economic liberalization, paving the way for Israel’s high-tech revolution. At that time, the crisis was of a different kind:

[T]he Palestinian economy before 2000 was deeply integrated into, and dependent on, the Israeli economy—and was flourishing because of it. Israelis could safely travel in Palestinian cities in those days and had developed a habit of buying cheaper Palestinian goods and services, from car parts to dentistry, valued at hundreds of millions of dollars annually. Together with overseas tourists, they dropped half a billion dollars annually, equal to over 10 percent of the Palestinian GDP, at Jericho’s casino.

But Israel’s economy needed the Palestinians, too, at least in those days. As they grew wealthier from trade with Israel, Palestinians became eager consumers of Israeli products, with some $1.7 billion in Israeli exports to the PA annually, or 7 percent of total Israeli exports excluding diamonds. Palestinian labor drove the Israeli agriculture and construction industries.

The onset of the second intifada reversed those trends, hurting both sides deeply and in interconnected ways.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli economy, Israeli politics, Second Intifada

Iran’s President May Be Dead. What Next?

At the moment, Hizballah’s superiors in Tehran probably aren’t giving much thought to the militia’s next move. More likely, they are focused on the fact that their country’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, along with the foreign minister, may have been killed in a helicopter crash near the Iran-Azerbaijan border. Iranians set off fireworks to celebrate the possible death of this man known as “butcher of Tehran” for his role in executing dissidents. Shay Khatiri explains what will happen next:

If the president is dead or unable to perform his duties for longer than two months, the first vice-president, the speaker of the parliament, and the chief justice, with the consent of the supreme leader, form a council to choose the succession mechanism. In effect, this means that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will decide [how to proceed]. Either a new election is called, or Khamenei will dictate that the council chooses a single person to avoid an election in time of crisis.

Whatever happens next, however, Raisi’s “hard landing” will mark the first chapter in a game of musical chairs that will consume the Islamic Republic for months and will set the stage not only for the post-Raisi era, but the post-Khamenei one as well.

As for the inevitable speculation that Raisi’s death wasn’t an accident: everything I have read so far suggests that it was. Still, that its foremost enemy will be distracted by a succession struggle is good news for Israel. And it wouldn’t be terrible if Iran’s leaders suspect that the Mossad just might have taken out Raisi. For all their rhetoric about martyrdom, I doubt they relish the prospect of becoming martyrs themselves.

Read more at Middle East Forum

More about: Ali Khamenei, Iran, Mossad