Afternoon Tea in Jerusalem Blog

In addition to my work as a business coach, one of my interests is blogging about life in Israel. This is a country full of contrasts – over eight million citizens living in an area the size of Wales. You can see snow and the lowest place on the globe in the same day. Although surrounded by geopolitical extremes, Israel has achieved a decade of high economic growth. My work brings me in contact with an array of new companies, exciting technologies and dynamic characters. Sitting back with a relaxing cup of strong tea (with milk), you realise just how much there is to appreciate in the Holyland. Large or small operations, private sector or non profit, my clients provide experiences from which others can learn and benefit.

For the third time within a year, Binyamin Netanyahu claimed this March that he had won a phenomenal victory at the polls. And for the third time. he ended up forming a coalition that could not last.

Jump forward to November 2020 and we see the inevitable beginning of the end of the current Italian comedy. The difference this time is that Bibi, as the Israeli PM is affectionally known, has discarded so many former allies that next time round, they may be able to form a government without him. (This assumes that their hatred and distrust of him is enough to bind them together, despite their clashing egos).

Politics in Israel has been dominated this year by first and obviously how to handle covid-19, and secondly the sensational development of relations with Gulf States. Bibi has been at the forefront of both.

During the Spring, Bibi was seen on TV constantly. By May, he was claiming that covid-19 was under control and that society could start a process of normalisation. He had risen to the task.

The summer brought……… hot weather. Economic hardship set in, especially for the sectors not tied in to hightech. Over 20% unemployment, a fiasco over loans for small businesses, a government budget that has yet to be passed even today and a series of arrogant statements by Bibi’s supporters that appeared to play down the woes of the common people. As a second lockdown then kicked in, Bibi was no longer seen making Churchill-like appearances on the telly.

The Autumn brought a flood of good news from overseas. The UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and with assumedly more to come countries established diplomatic links with Israel. Nobody doubts that Bibi has led the way on this matter. Equally, nobody also doubts that he has kept this credit from his coalition partners (or enemies), who actually hold the important portfolios of Defense and also Foreign Affairs. They were kept in the dark on key developments.

Would you call this leadership in the time of corona?

We must not forget that underneath all of these events lies the volcano of Bibi’s trial next year. He has been indicted on three counts, and only an oversight in the constitution allows him to remain as Prime Minister. That is what drives nearly all of his decisions. And his need to cling to power is what will lead the country into another unwanted election.

What’s wrong with that? S&P recently confirmed Israel’s high credit rating. However, in interviews on the radio, the author of the report indicated that internal political uncertainty will soon jeopardise that position. It will cost the country more money to finance its growing debts.

So if Bibi has led Israel to this point, what can he deliver in the future? Despite the rhetoric, he is a man who neither unifies nor shows compassion. Is he a person with you can identify with, even if you disagree with his politics? Multiple opinion polls suggest not.

So what does Bibi have to offer the Israeli electorate in 2021, other than revelations from his trials? We wait to see.

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