How much are these elections, the third in less than a year, costing Israelis?
Diplomatically, it’s wasted a crucial year with a U.S. president who correctly calls himself Israel’s best friend ever and is prepared to back Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley, long regarded as a vital national security interest. Likewise, it cost Israel the opportunity to table for discussion a U.S. peace plan that reportedly permits “settlements” in Yehudah and Shomron to remain in place.
Defensively, it’s held up important decisions on long-term purchases and planning which could, chalilah, cost the country dearly in a few years when those planes or weapons systems are needed.
Worse still, a year of vicious political attacks has eroded unity, a vital component of national security.
Economically, the cost of three elections has been estimated at NIS 10 billion, enough to build five hospitals, ease overcrowding in classrooms and raise old-age stipends for a million pensioners (many of whom are Russians and vote for Avigdor Liberman, the man responsible for these elections).
Not only will each and every Israeli be billed thousands of shekels for these exercises in futility — the polls show that the third round will produce more or less the same results as the first two — but they’ll also see their services cut.
That’s because in the absence of a new budget for 2020, government ministries will receive each month a twelfth of what they received in 2019 — even though the population has grown 2 percent and needs have changed.
In the absence of a fully functioning government, major investments in the economy have been postponed as there is no one who can make long-term commitments regarding tax breaks, building permits and the like. Moreover, there is no one to take control of the economy and steer it clear of a growing deficit.
Bank of Israel governor Amir Yaron warned last week that if the necessary steps aren’t taken now, the already over-target budget deficit could balloon even further.
Addressing a conference organized last week by the Israel Democracy Institute, Yaron predicted that if the government doesn’t raise taxes, “the deficit is expected to reach a dangerous level” of more than 4.5 percent of GDP, and the debt-to-GDP ratio is expected to spike, reaching 75 percent of GDP in 2025.
In light of all this, it’s a wonder that Israelis haven’t taken to the streets to protest the irresponsibility shown by the politicians who didn’t even try to reach agreements that would have spared the country so much waste. The problem is that in the absence of public outrage there is no guarantee that we won’t see a fourth and fifth election, costing Israel its good name and turning it from a respected country internationally into an ungovernable joke.