Makers and Takers, Israel Edition

A blog about business and economics.
Jan. 23 2013 9:49 AM

Makers and Takers, Israel Edition

Israeli actor, journalist, and author Yair Lapid, leader of the Yesh Atid Party, speaks to supporters early on Jan. 23, 2013, at party headquarters in Tel Aviv
Israeli actor, journalist, and author Yair Lapid, leader of the Yesh Atid Party, speaks to supporters early on Jan. 23, 2013, at party headquarters in Tel Aviv

Photo by Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images.

In the context of the Israeli political spectrum, the Yesh Atid Party—led by former television host Yair Lapid—counts as a "centrist" party. But the big winners in yesterday's election actually have some rhetorical tropes on economics that are very similar to the American right. Here's an account by Isabel Kershner of a seminal newspaper column Lapid wrote:

His father was a Holocaust survivor who went on to serve as justice minister. His mother is a well-known novelist. A year ago, when Mr. Lapid decided to quit television and enter politics, he set himself the mission of representing the country’s struggling middle class, a long-neglected constituency. He presented a common appeal, refreshing for an Israeli politician. As the author of a widely read column in the weekend supplement of the newspaper Yediot Aharonot, he wrote a column under a title that became his catchphrase: “Where’s the money?”
He wrote: “This is the big question asked by Israel’s middle class, the same sector on whose behalf I am going into politics. Where’s the money? Why is it that the productive sector, which pays taxes, fulfills its obligations, performs reserve duty and carries the entire country on its back, doesn’t see the money?”
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It's moochers and looters all over again, except in the Israeli context the moochers are ultra-orthodox sects who have large families, are exempt from military service obligation*, and divert funding streams away from secular education projects.

* Correction, Jan. 23, 2013: The ultra-orthodox are of course exempt from the draft, not from "religious services" as I initially miswrote.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.