M.J. Rosenberg writes: A couple of years before Binyamin Netanyahu was elected prime minister of Israel in 2009, I participated in a small meeting with him as a staffer for Israel Policy Forum, an organization that lobbied for the “two-state” solution.
Netanyahu was ebullient. He seemed certain that he would soon be prime minister and was bursting with plans he had developed for his return to the job he had in the late 1990s. All of those plans were about the economy (standard Milton Friedman boilerplate).
In those heady days before the worldwide economic crash of 2008, Netanyahu said he was looking forward to sustained economic growth of 8 percent, a very impressive figure. He said that Israel would soon be in the same economic category as the so-called Asian Tiger economies of South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore.
Netanyahu spoke for 10 minutes and devoted not a single word to security issues. It was all economics without even a reference to the Palestinians, Iranians or effects of the occupation.
When he opened up for questions, the leader of our delegation asked if his sunny view of the future allowed for the possibility of war or another intifada. He shrugged at that, merely noting that obviously security developments would have an effect. But he didn’t foresee any problems that would alter his forecast.
Netanyahu seemed utterly sincere. He clearly believed that Israel’s security situation was fine, that there were no obvious threats looming. As for Iran, a standard component of Netanyahu speeches then as now, he didn’t even bother with his usual gloom and doom in this intimate setting with people he knew well. He talked about the economy because that is what he was focused on. He wanted to dismantle the remnants of the Labor Party-created welfare state and let business run the show.
That is, in fact, what he has done as prime minister (which is one reason why Israel is now, for the first time, the scene of mass protests against growing economic inequality).
Given his focus on the economy, it is odd that Netanyahu seems oblivious to the likely economic effects of an attack on Iran. [Continue reading…]