Why Not Netanyahu? Part 1

This is the first of a two-part series on Benjamin Netanyahu. The first article concerns the success of his domestic record, one not heard much about. The second article will be on his record regarding foreign affairs and the peace process.

I have always been an admirer of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. From the time he emerged on the world scene in the 1980’s as Israel’s UN Ambassador, he has been a strong spokesman in the image of Abba Eban. My feelings about him were reinforced when I discovered his father was my Zionist history professor back in college in 1969. In addition to being a major Jewish historian, his father also played a part in Israel’s creation as a Revisionist Zionism movement member working as a personal secretary to Ze’ev Jabotinsky.

Many in the US Jewish community identifying themselves as liberals are opposed to Netanyahu because they don’t like his policies concerning the peace process and his lack of co-operation with the Obama administration. To make matters worse Netanyahu’s political and economic philosophy is conservative. They cannot understand how the Israeli public continues to support him as Prime Minister. However, if you look at the overall record, one might draw a different conclusion.

Let’s take a look at Netanyahu’s accomplishments on Israel’s economic front. As Finance Minister in the Sharon government, Netanyahu was an advocate of supply side economics. In 2003 he pushed through a tax cut that saw the top individual rate drop from 64 percent to 44 percent, while corporate rates were slashed from 36 percent to 18 percent. The tax cuts transformed Israel to a market economy and an engine for growth.

As Prime Minister he continues the push for lower tax rates, and more privatization of state industries. Netanyahu also advocates a more pro business policy, cutting back on government expenditures, and working to minimize the deficit. Because of policies put in place when Netanyahu was finance minister, Israel did not suffer a significant recession during the world financial crisis of 2008. His policies as Prime Minister have insured that Israel’s economy continues to grow.

One of Netanyahu goals when he became Prime Minister was to end Israel’s dependence on US economic aid. According to the Cato Institute, the US has completely phased out all economic aid to Israel.

Israel’s economy is a story of strength. During the Obama years the US GDP grew at an anemic 1 to 2 percent, Israel’s GDP is growing today at around 5 percent. Israel looks even better when compared to the European Union which has growth of 1.7 percent. Most economists believe at least 4 percent growth is necessary for a strong economy.

Israel’s strong economic growth has created a full employment economy, with a rate of 4.8 percent. Much like the US economy, Israel has a labor shortage. What was a surprise to me is Israel’s shortage of labor in its highly successful technology sector. Israel has more technicians per capita than any other country in the world, yet they need more tech people.

Full employment usually means inflationary pressures, yet the inflation rate is minus-.02%. This is not a concern according to the Bank of Israel, but they continue to monitor Israel’s Inflation rate. Again this situation is similar to the US, where we have full unemployment and a concern regarding our low inflation rate.

In 2015 when voters faced the choice of Netanyahu’s economic policies verses the opposition’s policies, Jake Novak a CNBC senior columnist pointed out, “…confidence was even lower in the opposition’s “new” economic plan that was really just the same old socialist platform circa 1954.” As a result Netanyahu’s Likud party managed to increase its presence in the Knesset.

When critics chastise Netanyahu, they fail to mention Israel’s strong economy. Israel’s economic strength must be a part of Netanyahu’s legacy.

Gary Porter is a long-time businessman in North Dakota where also served two terms in the North Dakota House of Representatives and was the Republican candidate for Congress in 1994. He served as the chairman and executive director of the North Dakota Republican Party. He now lives in Plymouth and has joined the JCRC’s Speakers Bureau.