Netanyahu's egoism undermines the right

Benjamin Netanyahu  / Photo: Shlomi Yosef , Globes

Right-wing conservatism is based on a free market in goods, services, ideas, and leadership, argues Roy Folkman.

One of the great successes of the conservative right in the twentieth century is to have instilled in people's minds the value of free markets as the mainstay of economic growth. There is practically no democratic country in which this is not the undisputed basis of the economy. There are, it is true, many differences when it comes to dealing with market failures, oversight and regulation, as well in views on how resources should be allocated, and on equality and opportunity. The fundamental principle, however, is a free, competitive market, based on the understanding that competition is the best way of obtaining the optimal product.

Why does this concept fall apart when it comes to politics? The democratic ideal is a free market of ideas and leaders, with the best and most suitable receiving support and progressing, amid constant competition for the public's confidence and backing. One of the differences between a free market in politics and a free market in the economy is that in politics it frequently happens that one side is preoccupied with persuading us how bad the other side is, rather than why it itself is better.

Our present political reality represents the complete collapse of the most important conservative value - the free market. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's response to the severe charges against him was not to contend with the facts or to argue that his good deeds outweighed minor slip-ups. His main message was that an indictment of a sitting prime minister was "a coup d'êtat". Netanyahu presented a single possibility: any result other than dismissal of all the charges against him is illegitimate. Why? Because I am the sole option for governing Israel, the exclusive representative of the right-wing agenda. A monopoly.

The delegitimizing of the law enforcement system also stemmed from personal rather than public-spirited considerations. The prime minister has held the post for a decade. I served for four years in a stable right-wing coalition headed by him. The prime minister and his people never attempted to promote a serious, root and branch effort to improve and optimize the law enforcement system in Israel. But lo and behold, with the filing of the indictment, suddenly the system is rotten and needs reform. Did it not need fixing when Nochi Dankner was sent to jail? Or perhaps Jacky Ben-Zaken?

More than 500 white-collar criminals have been indicted and tried during Netanyahu's time in office, some of them from the highest ranks - ministers, mayors, not to mention a prime minister and a president. In many of these cases, the same kinds of witness interrogation methods were used as in Netanyahu's case. Before his "J'Accuse" over "selective enforcement, injustice, witch-hunting, a media kangaroo court, a fixed game", was there no need for a deep probe of the State Attorney's Office, of the police, of the justice system?

The underlying narrative of all the prime minister's attacks on the charges against him is "I am, and none else besides me". "L'État, c'est moi." I am the right. It's me they're after. There's nothing like this in any other democracy, and if they accuse me, it's a coup d'état.

Anyone holding conservative right-wing views must disown the line that the prime minister is peddling. The secret of a successful, democratic society is a market economy, free of dependence on a single actor, with competition over services, over ideas, and over leadership.

Netanyahu is not the right. The same charges as have been levelled at him have been leveled at plenty of others. He is not exceptional, not disadvantaged, and not special. He is not even special in his "J'Accuse" speech. I will never forget the stomach-churning speech of Moshe Katsav after it was decided to indict him: "McCarthyism has risen from the dead here in the State of Israel. Collaboration between the media and Israel Police. When the police persecute a citizen, the media protect it. A person's dignity is ground to dust. Where are the tender-minded liberals? Why aren't they making an outcry against this wrong?"

The only difference is that the accused Netanyahu is prime minister, and he's prepared to bring the house down around him. I can understand his and his family's anger. I cannot accept the chorus of supporters within the right-wing camp. Is the right in Israel so weak and scared that it has to cling to a leader who is suspected of criminality, and who chooses to take down with him all the principles on which the state was founded?

Calling for reform of the system is legitimate, but not by someone whose entire stance is tainted by conflicts of interest. Anyone who identifies with conservatism and the values of the right must disown the current attack on the law enforcement system. The right never was and never will be dependent on the monopoly called Netanyahu.

The writer is a former chairman of the Kulanu party.

Even after the filing of indictments against them, Benjamin Netanyahu, Shaul Elovitch, Iris Elovitch and Arnon Mozes deny the charges against them by the Attorney General, and are entitled to the presumption of innocence.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on November 25, 2019

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2019

Benjamin Netanyahu  / Photo: Shlomi Yosef , Globes
Benjamin Netanyahu / Photo: Shlomi Yosef , Globes
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