It turns out there’s a phrase for the reality of ‘crony capitalism’ in Hebrew: hon v’shilton, which is “literally translated as capital and government, an expression Israelis use to describe the rich’s influence on government.” Check out Bloomberg Businessweek for an overview of current controversy on Israel’s “business elite.”
Of course business need not corrupt government. But the temptation for those with a concentration of economic power to turn that into political advantage in order to retain economic dominance is perennial. In a 2008 interview with venture capitalist Ronny Douek, who founded the Israel Center for Civil Society, Jerusalem Post interviewer Ruthie Blum Leibowitz asked Douek about hon v’shilton:
Doesn’t the connection between business and politics – what we call “hon v’shilton” – have negative connotations?
Yes, unless it is defined as taking mutual responsibility for society. With the right balance, it can only be a good connection. Take, for example, people here who saw ways in which they could have an influence on road safety or education…
Douek’s answer refers to his pluriform view of social life, in which he likens Israel “to a table resting on three legs – the government, civil society and business.”
As an aside, one instance of the ancient Hebrew root for the modern term shilton appears in Ecclesiastes 8:4 as supreme: “Since a king’s word is supreme, who can say to him, ‘What are you doing?’”