The protests in Israel are a left against right political crisis for Netanyahu, and at its core is a trending towards Progressivism, though this is the usual state of politics in Israel, with the Palestinian occupation a key issue in the divide.
The rallies appear to be primarily hoisting vague social justice demands against the free-market vision of Netanyahu. The protests began with a few homeless students who set up a tent on a boulevard in Tel Aviv to demonstrate anger at the high rents. They quickly grew as numerous groups, from students to dairy farmers, joined up until there were 100,000 to 400,000 marching through the streets on August 6th.
Prior to the August 6th rally, there was a Facebook campaign against the doubling of the price of cottage cheese, an important Israeli staple, and a doctor’s strike. Read here: Cottage cheese prices and here: Doctor strike
As the groups grow into a seemingly more unified Progressive movement, so do the demands, which include free education, free childcare, an end to privatization of state-owned companies, an increase in social housing and transportation, and so on. Generally, they want social justice and a return to the old liberalism with a veering away from Netanyahu’s pro-settlement, Orthodox supporters. Netanyahu’s popularity has supposedly been hurt by the protests after a surge following his meeting with Obama.
On the surface, Israel’s economy is doing well, and while expected to grow by 3.7% in 2011, Israelis see the government as ruled by wealthy special interests and conglomerates. Their unemployment rate, while low at 7%, is higher for youths at over 13%. The Israeli middle class has a difficult time financially as food and housing prices continue to soar. The wealthy want a return to a less materialistic society. Read here: Israel umemployment and here: Youth unemployment
Mortgages are hard to come by and most Israelis have to rent. Rents, in some cases, have, according to some protesters, doubled in a short space of time. While 90% of the land in Israel is state-owned, and is likely to be one of the reasons for the lack of affordable housing, the protesters want more government ownership and less privatization.
It’s almost humorous to read online sites rage about Netanyahu’s purported right wing politics since everything is largely government-run in Israel and Netanyahu is actually trying to promote free enterprise. He would be a moderate Democrat in the U.S. at best.
Some have compared the Israeli protests to the Arab Spring, but they are more like the U.S. Coffee Party movement. While it seems like the Israeli rallies began as a movement by youth for middle class rights and freedom, it is currently taking shape as a rising up of collectivism and bigger government.
The alarming similarities to the call for setting up tents on Wall Street, and around the country, on September 17th and on Freedom Plaza in D.C. on October 6th, makes one wonder if there is a more singular root cause for the disruptions. The call for rallies in the U.S. are connected to the European Revolution, a statist front organization. Read details here: Day of Rage, September 17th
The Israel National News believes there are media strategists behind their uprising, including one Stanley Greenberg, former adviser to Bill Clinton and John Kerry. They believe he engineered it using numerous groups to cloak his ultimate goal of social unrest to pave the way for a left-wing leader to step in and take the reins from Netanyahu. Greenberg is connected to strategists for Netanyahu opponent, Ehud Barak.
The connection to our Democratic leadership in this country is hard to ignore if Israel National News is correct, especially since President Obama’s contempt for Netanyahu is palatable. Read here: Israel National News
Another curiosity is some of the chatter on far-left Israeli sites such as 972 magazine and roarmag, who blog with glee about the increased protests throughout South America and Europe, creating the tie-in to the Day of Rage and their backers. Another issue which they like to hammer is the Palestinian question, claiming that not recognizing Palestine is racist and fascist. This certainly has a familiar ring when one considers Obama’s goal of returning Israel to 1967 borders. Many protesters, in contrast to these online magazines, are vague on the Palestinian issue. Read here if you must: the far-left roar
The people of Israel want social justice and regime change
The palestinian question
The demand for a return to basic rights
An interview with a protester