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Ben-Eliezer: Protest only beginning
Photo: Yaron Brener
Ben-Eliezer: Israel headed for disaster
Former minister warns Palestnian UN bid will clash with housing crisis to create 'chaos', urges Netanyahu to 'take matters in hand' by cutting defense budget, transferring funds from settlements to housing within 1967 lines

Former Industry, Trade, and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer told Ynet in an interview Monday he fears Israel is headed towards the worst disaster since the establishment of the state.

 

He added that "the social protest is only beginning" and that it would get worse in September, when the Palestinians plan to appeal to the UN for statehood recognition.

 

 

"The people in the streets today are Israel's elite. This is the public that shoulders the burden of (IDF) service, labor, and taxes," he said. "If tomorrow we have to fight, there is a link between this public and national strength. That is this is heading towards collapse."

 

Ben-Eliezer also made a common comparison between Israel and the 'Arab Spring'. "What is happening in Israel is part of the general atmosphere. Suddenly the civilian understands he is strong, he has power," he said.

 

The former minister also suggested that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu solve the crisis himself by transferring funds from settlements to housing projects in cities and towns within the 1967 borders, as well as cutting the defense budget, like his predecessor, Yitzhak Rabin.

 

"The major thing Rabin did was give an order to freeze construction in settlements and transfer all the funds from the (Palestinian) territories to within Israel. Then he put everything into construction for young couples and infrastructure," he said.

 

"Billions go into settlements. Billions have gone. If we don't stop this a disaster is imminent. These people have had enough. They have learned that there is no longer an option of a leader saying something and the people following blindly."

 

'Result of Mideast uprisings'

Netanyahu must also cut the Defense Ministry's budget, in his opinion. "There is a relationship between national strength and the ability to take care of things at home. We've always gone to war knowing that everything was alright at home. The IDF is strong, but it will have to stand this test," said Ben-Eliezer, who has also served as defense minister in the past.

 

However he still believes Netanyahu has enough support to keep his coalition steady. "He can hold out until the end, but what will happen in the state is that what we saw Saturday night was nothing," he said of the mass protest that occurred Saturday throughout Israel.

 

The former minister also expressed pride, stressing that he was shocked by such a turnout at protests. "All these years I've said what a sleepy nation we are. Tractors can run us over and we do nothing," he said.

 

"But what happened is a result of what is happening in the Middle East. Suddenly our excellent children see that people can overturn governments."

 

Ben-Eliezer concluded with a call to Netanyahu to end the protests before September. "This is the most complex state of emergency since the War of Independence," he said. "It's going to be chaos. I told the prime minister: Take this situation in hand. Don't appoint committees. Manage it yourself."

 

 

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