Photo: Yaron Brener
Attila Somfalvi
Photo: Yaron Brener
Social protest goes national
Bibi - under pressure
Photo: Gil Yohanan

Netanyahu in trouble

Op-ed: With social protest gaining steam nationwide, prime minister has good reason for concern

One hundred and fifty thousand is no longer just a number. It’s reality, and it’s alive and kicking. Some 150,000 people who left their homes yesterday directed their fury at the man who they view as the culprit behind the State’s privatization and burial of concern for the regular folk. These are not a bunch of “spoiled brats” who can be dismissed with a disparaging hand gesture or by rolling one’s eyes; these are working people; angry people facing collapse.


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can no longer be comforted by the thought that the protest will wane when tent residents will get tired of what some people characterized as a “festival.” He can no longer accuse the Left, or the opposition, or the “hedonists,” or those who conspire to oust him. The conspiracy theories were eliminated yesterday in Tel Aviv, Beersheba, Jerusalem, Haifa, Kiryat Shmona and in other towns. Some 150,000 people killed the conspiracies. They want healthcare, education, welfare and housing, rather than made-up stories about vague funds that merely serve to fuel the protest.


The social protest has not belonged to just a few individuals for a while now; it is not a fleeting trend or a way of fighting the boredom of summer. This protest is making its way to the top of the government, shake up Likud, rocks the leather chairs in the Knesset and makes the prime minister and finance minister sweat and seek an escape route from the fury pouring into the street.


Honest ministers are shifting uncomfortably in their chairs; one of them is talking behind closed doors about quitting the government. For the time being it’s only one. Should the protest continue, several other members of this 30-minister government will start to hesitate, and we have not yet mentioned the social-minded Shas, which may find itself with its back to the wall and undertake a dramatic move to avoid the arrows currently being directed at Netanyahu.


Likud unrest reaches new heights

The unrest within Likud is reaching new heights: Activists are demanding a meeting of the Central Committee while others sign petitions against Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz. Minister Michael Eitan takes jabs at the PM to his face, Silvan Shalom invites Kadima to join the government, Gilad Erdan visits the tent city, ministers Katz and Saar and suddenly fighting for electricity prices and MK Miri Regev demands that Netanyahu immediately change the state budget and pour billions to reduce the price of water, fuel, electricity and housing.


We can assume that this is only the beginning. As of Sunday, all ministers will be under fire. Every single one of them. Those who thought that the protest will wane and that the protestors will disperse after the second rally were wrong, big time. The decision of so many frustrated Israelis to hit the streets adds more fuel to the fire. Under these circumstances, the prime minister has reason to be concerned. Up until now it appeared that his credibility problem was an issue for officials in Washington and European capitals. Last night, protestors nationwide made it clear that they too no longer believe the PM.


On Tuesday, Netanyahu presented his plan for reducing housing prices, and over the weekend he sent his close associate Ofir Akunis to announce that the PM is mulling the option of cutting taxes on water and fuel. Had they believed him, 150,000 Israelis would not have left their homes and would not bother to yell for hours, in the heavy humidity and under impossibly crowded conditions, “Bibi go home.”


The organizers of the tent city in Tel Aviv are making every effort to distance themselves from politics. Yet this protest is most certainly political, because it marks a major clash between two ways: The one adopted today, and the other, which takes into consideration human beings and the small numbers, not just the macro.


In a democratic state such as Israel, the big decisions are made at the polling stations. There, in the next elections, Israelis will decide who to send packing. Netanyahu, Livni and Barak should be greatly concerned. The social protest that produced deep despair is also expected to give rise to new, different frameworks. At this time already we can assert that the upheaval undergone by the State of Israel will affect the overall picture in the next elections. Those who came out to protest are also expected to go to the polling stations, even if they did not do so in the past – not to elect; to take revenge.



פרסום ראשון: 07.31.11, 13:57
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