Individual freedom and economic liberty – two of the central issues at play in American politics – have long been overshadowed in Israel by the Arab-Israeli conflict in all of its dimensions: the future of Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria, national security and terrorism, foreign pressure, etc.
But in recent years a new movement promoting economic freedom and classical liberalism in Israel is working to raise awareness on issues outside of the realm of hawk-dove paradigm that has so dominated Knesset politics for decades.
The Israeli Freedom Movement published on Thursday its latest “Liberty Index”, ranking Israeli political parties and individual Knesset members based on their support for legislation either expanding or reducing personal liberty and the free market in Israel.
At the top of the list is Likud MK Sharren Haskel. A Canadian-born immigrant, Haskel is the second youngest MK currently serving, having begun her term last year at age 31.
A supporter of market economics and proponent of decriminalizing light drugs like marijuana, Haskel earned a score of 31.
Just behind Haskel is Bezalel Smotrich (Jewish Home) with a rating of 29. Known for his hawkish stances on security and territorial issues, Smotrich surprised some observers. Journalist David Rosenthal expressed his astonishment at the ranking.
“I didn’t know Smotrich was such a liberal. I was happily surprised.”
Not surprisingly, MK Benny Begin (Likud), son of Likud founder Menachem Begin and leader of the now defunct New Herut (Liberty) movement, also scored highly, coming in third with 23.
All but one of the top ten MKs listed in the index are members of the Likud.
The lowest ranked MKs, however came primarily from the left or the predominantly Arab Joint List. The Joint List’s token Jewish MK, Dov Khenin, a member of the Hadash Communist movement, came in dead last with a score of -109.
He was followed by Itzik Shmueli (Labor) with -84, Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) with -83, and Yesh Atid’s Miki Levy with -81.
An aggregate ranking put the Jewish Home on top with an average score of 14, compared to 8.8 for the Likud, 0.1 for Kulanu, -1 for United Torah Judaism, -4 for Shas, -13.6 for Yisrael Beytenu, -46 for Yesh Atid, -46.16 for the Zionist Union, -46.69 for the Joint List, and -63.2 for Meretz.
Naftali Schindler, who compiled the index, explained the basis for the ranking and the importance of having an alternative to the traditional measurement systems.
“The State of Israel is today ranks in the middle in terms of world liberty indexes, a result of Israel’s founding as a very strongly socialist state, which led to the creation of monopolistic bodies [like] the Histradut [central labor union], as well as a centralized economy.”
Unlike other rating systems Schindler explained, “the Liberty Index focuses on those brave, responsible MKs in the Knesset who work consistently for legislation expanding personal liberty and the free market.”
“The Knesset Members at the top of the index are working towards a responsible economic system which places the citizens at the center, even if that means passing unpopular laws.”
Schindler noted a stark generational difference among those at the top and bottom of the list.
“It’s nice to see that the younger MKs in the coalition in particular tend towards voting for and pushing the values of personal liberty and a free market economy”.