Netanyahu’s Iran Speech A Distraction From Israel’s GOP-Style Economic Failure

There can be little doubt that Speaker John Boehner summoned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to lobby Congress to pass legislation to thwart America’s role in the P5+1 Iran nuclear negotiations. It is also fairly certain Netanyahu and Boehner wanted to humiliate President Obama. However, although warmonger Netanyahu does want America to wage war against Iran on Israel’s behalf, he had a different motivation to save his job as Israel’s leader.

There is a misconception that Israel is a thriving economy where every citizen is relatively equal and lives a robust middle class lifestyle. However, that is certainly not the case and in fact, Netanyahu’s Congressional saber rattling was to inspire fear among Israeli voters and distract them from the economic failings Netanyahu’s government has wreaked on a very substantial segment of Israel’s population. Like America, Israel is suffering incredibly unfair income disparity that is a direct result of Republican-like economic policies favoring the rich over the rest of the population. This is what Netanyahu was attempting to distract Israeli, not American, voters from by fear-mongering about a nuclear Iran.

What Americans have witnessed happening on both ends of the economic scale over the past thirty years, growing poverty and middle class decline on the one hand and explosive growth in extreme wealth on the other, is not unique in the world. In fact, America’s conservative-driven and widening income gap between the uber-rich and everyone else fairly pales in comparison to Israel’s conservative-driven economy. There is a reason why Benjamin Netanyahu and Republicans are joined at the hip and of course they both have blood lust for wars to kill Muslims, but they also have a predilection to enriching the already extremely wealthy on the backs of the poor and middle class.

In Nobel winning economist Paul Krugman’s column on Monday, he exposed the fallacy of Israel’s storied raging economic success and the reason Netanyahu took a chance on insulting the President of the United States. Krugman acknowledged that like America, Israel’s economy is growing, but exactly like America the rewards are going straight to the richest of the rich. Krugman noted recently-released data showing the income disparity devastating ever-growing numbers of Americans is wreaking worse havoc on Israelis; this is what Netanyahu hoped Israeli voters would forget when they saw him address Congress and lobby for war with Iran.

The Luxembourg Income Study data reveals that similar to America, the share of Israel’s population living on less than half the country’s median income, the definition of relative poverty, more than doubled to 20.5% percent from 10.2 percent, between 1992 and 2010. What is more telling about the nature of Republican and Netanyahu’s conservative economic prowess is that the share of children in poverty has nearly quadrupled from 7.8% to 27.4% under Israel’s Republican-modeled economic policies. Both figures are the worst in the advanced world, by a substantial margin, and puts conservative loyalty to the wealthy elite in Israel on par with Republicans in America.

The report claims, again like in America, that the poor Israeli families and children in particular, are being alienated from the society around them and “will surely be placed at a permanent disadvantage.” The source of the problem, like America, is on the other side of the economic spectrum where the wealthy elite’s economic status empowers them to have unchallenged influence on economic policy to perpetuate the concentration of wealth at the top; something ultra-conservative Netanyahu has been a major advocate for since he has been Prime Minister. It is the same model Republicans funded by the Koch brothers have been successful in sending the great majority of wealth in the Obama economic recovery straight to the very richest Americans.

According to the Luxembourg Study data, and very much like in America, although an inordinately large share of income flows to the “top one percent,” the lion’s share of wealth and power is concentrated among a tiny group of people at the top of the income bracket. In America it is the top tenth of the one percent. In Israel it is worse according to the Bank of Israel that revealed “roughly 20 families control companies that account for half the total value of Israel’s stock market.”  They report that the nature of oligarchs’ control is convoluted and obscure, and operates through “pyramids” in which one family controls a firm that in turn controls other firms and so on; similar to the Koch brothers and a few Wall Street firms’ vast holdings and control.

In addition to Israel’s gross income disparity, Netanyahu’s Iran speech in America and saber rattling for war against the Islamic Republic was also an attempt to distract Israeli’s from the other issue that has Netanyahu’s electoral chances in jeopardy; “voters’ disdain over costly housing.”

Before Netanyahu’s call for war in Congress, Israelis were already highly-agitated over a report by Israel’s state comptroller, Joseph Shapira, on the country’s rapidly-worsening housing crisis. The report revealed that house prices rose 55% and rental rates rose 30% in less than five years. Despite the crushing conservative government’s income disparity between rich and everyone else and the astronomical rise in housing costs, Netanyahu’s campaign took a page right out of the Republican playbook and said, “Only a strong government led by Prime Minister Netanyahu will resolve this crisis, just as we did with many other reforms and deep institutional changes we implemented that have made the Israeli economy strong and competitive.”

Now, Republicans and their Heritage Foundation budget directors are wont to claim the obscene income inequality plaguing Americans is just part of a thirty year, naturally occurring, phenomenon of the free market before the masses become millionaires. However, in Israel, like their powerful American colony, the income gap is the direct result of conservative economic policy decisions inordinately favoring the very rich.

As if to punctuate precisely how much Netanyahu’s government emulates Republicans in Congress and state legislatures to keep Americans poor and desperate, Krugman writes that “Israel does less to lift people out of poverty than any other advanced country in the world; including less than the United States.” It is only less than the United States because Republicans do not control all three branches of government or Israel would be running a very distant second place.

Of course Benjamin Netanyahu wants America to wage war on Iran; that was one reason he addressed Congress. And he attempted to put the fear of god into Republicans to give Israel more of Americans’ tax dollars for Israel’s military machine; of that there is no doubt. However, with an Israeli electorate irate that housing is unattainable for the masses, and most of the nation’s wealth is flowing to a few extremely wealthy families, he desperately needed a Republican-style distraction. Republicans duly stepped in and delivered except it appears Israelis are not nearly as frightened, ignorant, or stupid as the American conservative movement’s electoral base.

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