Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

13 Elul 5759 - August 25, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
More of the Same -- or Worse

Barak ran for prime minister promising change in government. Very loudly and very often he said that he would redirect government spending from the chareidim and the settlers to the rest of the country, promising new growth and a revitalized economy.

What happened once he got elected?

For starters, he chose Beiga Shochat as Treasury Minister because he has been extremely loyal to Barak. It is widely acknowledged that Shochat left the economy a mess after his first try at running the economy under Rabin and Peres, and when Barak announced his choice for the Treasury, the Israeli stock market promptly showed what it thought of that choice by dropping sharply. Though Shochat announced that he had learned from his mistakes, Barak's choice was not one that signaled his commitment to change -- quite the contrary.

The new budget that was submitted looked very familiar. It sets very modest goals all around, but includes new spending cuts of more than 2% of the budget, adding up to some NIS 6 billion (about $1.5 billion). It does not promise much fall in unemployment, nor much growth.

Eli Yishai (Shas), Minister of Labor and Welfare, said when he saw the budget, "This is a recycled bad budget. They promised a change, I hoped for a change, but there is no change." Shlomo Ben Ami (One Israel), Minister of Internal Security, said, "We need a change. This is a budget that just continues what the previous government did, but we need a real change." Ron Cohen (Meretz), the Minister of Trade and Industry, said that he cannot vote for the budget. "We will be unfaithful to ourselves and our conscience if we do not fight for a change in priorities," said Cohen.

MK Ofer Pines (One Israel), who is the coalition chairman in the Knesset, said that the budget is not one that promises growth and more employment. He also said that the expanded government will make it even harder to push through any new programs, as there will be that many more special interests as each minister fights to preserve his own turf. "The fact that there is no change in the budget of '99 should be a warning to Barak," complained Pines.

Perhaps it should be a warning to someone else. Perhaps the Israeli electorate should reevaluate Barak's promises.

With the exception of the law to draft yeshiva students, Barak was long on general promises but extremely short on specifics. He promised to bring growth, to change spending patterns, but he never gave any specific proposals of what he would do. He promised to move forward on the peace process, but also gave no details. These promises were supposed to offer something new, to get him elected against Netanyahu.

Instead, in social and financial affairs, his policies seem a direct continuation of what Netanyahu was doing. The recent Cabinet approval of structural changes in the economy are just extensions of the policy that has been followed for almost ten years -- and that Netanyahu especially pushed. Even in diplomatic and foreign affairs, Barak is behaving substantially no differently from what Netanyahu clearly wanted to do -- and would have done if he had not been stopped by his right flank.

Everyone knows that it is easy to promise, but always harder to deliver. Barak built up very high expectations, but it seems that he will not be able to deliver at all.

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