Israel Political Brief January 1, 2013: National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror tells envoys ‘Quit or go into politics’

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‘Quit or go into politics,’ senior official tells envoys

Source: JTA, 1-1-13

Israeli diplomats should “quit or go into politics,” Israel’s national security advisor said during an annual conference of senior Israeli envoys….READ MORE

Full Text Israel Political Brief October 23, 2012: PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat Visit Jerusalem’s Gilo Neighborhood

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ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

PM Netanyahu and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat Visit Jerusalem’s Gilo Neighborhood

Source: PMO, 10-23-12
Photo by GPO

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat visited the Gilo neighborhood in Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Netanyahu said, “United Jerusalem is Israel’s eternal capital. We have full rights to build in it. We have built in Jerusalem, we are building in Jerusalem and we will continue to build in Jerusalem. This is our policy and I will continue to support building in Jerusalem.”

Mayor Barkat said, “Jerusalem is one united city, which has not been partitioned into tribes and will never be divided. This has always been our obligation and it will remain so in the future. Mr. Prime Minister, you and your government are true friends of Jerusalem. Thank you for the support and the resources that you have allocated to the city’s growth, and for the assistance that you have given to our right and our obligation to build and develop the city. We will continue to build tens of thousands of apartments throughout the city

Israel Brief October 3, 2011: Last Tel Aviv’s social justice protests tent cities evacuated

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ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

Tel Aviv tent cities evacuated

Source: JTA, 10-3-11

The tent cities remaining in Tel Aviv from this summer’s social justice protests were evacuated.

Police and Tel Aviv city inspectors evacuated at least three tent city sites on Monday, as well as empty tents on the main Rothschild Boulevard site. A court injunction prevented a full evacuation of that site.

Those who were evicted from the sites are mostly homeless, according to reports. City social workers have spent several days trying to find places for the homeless tent city dwellers, according to the municipality.

The municipality said it would establish “dialogue centers” on the sites.

Israel Political Brief September 5, 2011: 405,000 Social Protesters Hit Israel’s Streets for March of the Million

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405,000 Social Protesters Hit the Streets

Source: Virtual Jerusalem, 9-5-11

Israel’s middle class staged a massive show of strength last night when 405,000 protesters rallied in city streets throughout the country. There were an estimated 292,000 protesters at the largest rally in Tel Aviv, according to figures provided by Trendit to Channel 2 News. The demonstrators marched from Habimah Square at the northern end of Rothschild Boulevard to Kikar Hamedinah, where a major rally was held to protest the high cost of living and demand affordable housing and social justice.

At the same time, there were large rallies in Israel’s other major cities. 50,000 demonstrators gathered in Jerusalem, and 35,000 in Haifa as well as protests in Kiryat Shmona, Carmiel, Nahariya, Afula, Ness Ziona, Arad and other towns. There were no protests in Beersheva and Ashkelon because of security concerns. This was the eighth consecutive Saturday night of major social protests, and the largest so far.

According to figures provided by Trendit, 62% of the demonstrators in Tel Aviv were from the bottom 40% of the population in terms of israel protestsincome, while 18% of the protesters were from the top 10% of income earners.

Protest leader Dafni Leef said, “The struggle has not yet fulfilled its aims but rather has moved up into a new phase. I’m as poor as ever but as happy as I have ever been.”

At the end of the protest she said, “The summer of 2011 is the summer of hope. This hope was borne from the social gaps that have become impossible to bridge. Israeli society which has come here this evening, as well as those who stayed home have reached a red line and has said enough, no more. You can fool some of the people some of the time but you cannot fool all of them all of the time. This summer we woke up and opened our eyes.

Protest leader Stav Sapir said, “This struggle will go on beyond the summer. We will continue to struggle while the government ignores us. The government is playing for time and waiting for the protests to tire, and is expecting that the events in September will cause the protest to fade. But we haven’t yet brought to bear all the pressure on the government that we can. We have creative ways to continue to protest such as these Saturdays.”

Published by Globes, Israel business news – http://www.globes-online.com

Israel Political Brief August 14, 2011: Tens of thousands protest in Israeli cities

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Source: JTA, 8-14-11

Tens of thousands of Israelis marched in social justice protests in Israeli cities such as Haifa and Beersheba, but not Tel Aviv.

Saturday night’s protests were the first time in the last month that major demonstrations were not held in Tel Aviv.

Major demonstrations took place in Haifa with about 30,000 protesters, Beersheba with about 20,000 protesters and Afula with 15,000 protesters. Smaller demonstrations took place in 18 other cities including Eilat, Rosh Pina, Nahariya, Dimona, Modi’in, Petach Tikvah, Ramat Hasharon, Hod Hasharon, Netanya and Beit She’an, according to reports.  About 70,000 demonstrators rallied in the protests.

Last week, some 300,000 protesters took to the streets in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to call for affordable housing and other demands for social justice.

Israel Economic Protests: New panel to address Israelis’ economic burden

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

Source: JTA, 7-31-11

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he will form a ministerial committee to address the country’s economic challenges.

In the wake of massive protests across Israel, Netanyahu on Sunday said he would appoint a special team of ministers and experts to listen to representatives of the protesters and to submit a plan “to alleviate Israelis’ economic burden.”

“We are all aware of the genuine hardship of the cost of living in Israel,” Netanyahu said Sunday at the start of the regular weekly Cabinet meeting. “This affects many areas.  Some of the claims that are being heard are justified and some are not. Indeed, we must deal with the genuine distress, seriously and responsibly. This, without a doubt, compels us to change our list of priorities.”

The prime minister also said that “We must avoid irresponsible, hasty and populist steps that are liable to cause the country to deteriorate into the situation of certain European countries, which are on the verge of bankruptcy and large-scale unemployment.”

The announcement came hours after the resignation of the Finance Ministry’s director general, Haim Shani, who cited a “fundamental difference of opinion” with Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz. It is rumored that Steinitz could lose his job over the protests that are sweeping the country.

On Saturday night, more than 100,000 Israelis protested against the high cost of living in cities across Israel, with the largest demonstrations in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Beersheba and Haifa. It was the largest turnout for the populist protests since they began about two weeks ago.

Meanwhile, activists reportedly are planning a general strike for Monday.

Israel Political Brief August 8, 2011: Knesset to meet during recess over protests

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Source: JTA, 8-8-11

Israel’s Knesset will meet in a special session on the rash of protests sweeping the nation.

The debate scheduled for next week, which will interrupt the Knesset’s summer recess, was announced Monday after 50 opposition lawmakers signed a petition calling for the session titled “Netanyahu’s tax government is disconnected from the people and ignoring the public protest.” Only 25 signatures were necessary to call the meeting during a recess.

The signatures were collected by the Kadima and National Union parties.

On Monday, hundreds of senior citizens protested in Tel Aviv against the high cost of living, calling for lower costs for medications, a cancellation of the value-added tax on basic necessities and safeguards on the value of their pensions.

Israel Economic Protests: The Landlord Wannabe Protest

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

Source: Gilad Atzmon, Salem-News.com, 8-7-11

Israel, that was supposed to be the state of the Jewish people, has become a haven for the richest and most corrupted Jews from around the world.

Israel Palestine History Taxes Employment

It is almost amusing to find out that some of the most clichéd Marxists around are so taken by the current Israeli popular protest, which they foolishly interpret as a manifestation of the ‘Israeli revolutionary spirit’. They are convinced that now that the Israeli ‘working class’ are rising, peace will necessarily prevail.

Yet in fact, what we are really seeing unfold in Israel (at least for the time being) is the total opposite of a ‘working class’ re-awakening. Indeed, some in Israel are calling it the ‘Real Estate Protest,’ because basically, those protesting want assets: they all wish to have property, a house of their own. They want to be landlords. They want the key, and they want it now. What we see in Tel Aviv has no similarity whatsoever to the struggles taking place in al-Tahrir or in Athens. At the most, the Israeli demonstrations mimic some manifestations of a struggle for justice or Socialist protest.

But that is where the similarities end.

Motti Ashkenazi (a legendary Israeli anti establishment figure) wrote in ynet yesterday that “another Left is needed (in Israel), a Left that is primarily concerned with the poor of its country rather than with the plight of our neighbours.” In clear terms that cannot be interpreted otherwise: Motti Ashkenazi is exploring what he considers to be a necessary shift in Israeli ‘progressive’ thought, and what he appears to conclude is, forget about Palestine; let’s once and for all concentrate on ‘us,’ the Jews. Ashkenazi continues, “we need another Left, a modest one. Instead of a vision for the entire Middle East, it had better present a vision of the State of Israel.”

Professor Nissim Calderon (a lecturer in Hebrew literature ) also presented a similar line: “We have erected a Left that has been focusing on the fight for peace, and peace only. But there is a huge hole in our struggle- we failed to struggle for social justice.” Again ‘Lefty’ Calderon refers to the social struggle within the Israeli Jewish population.

The mass protest in Israel is, in fact, the complete opposite of a genuine social revolution: whilst it may present itself as a popular protest, in practice, it is a ‘populist festival’. According to reports from Israel, the leaders of the emerging protest are even reluctant to call for Netanyahu’s resignation. The same applies to security matters, the occupation the defence budget- the organizers wouldn’t touch these subjects in order not to split their rapidly growing support.

What we see in Israel is neither a socialist revolution; nor is it a struggle for justice. It is actually a ‘bourgeoisie wannabe revolution’, and the Israelis took to the street because each of them wants to be a landlord, to own a property. They do not care much about politics, ethics, or social awareness, and neither do they seem to care much about the war crimes they are collectively complicit in. Malnutrition in Gaza is really not their concern either. They seem to not care about anything much at all, except themselves becoming property owners.

But why do they want to own a property? Because they cannot really rent one. And why can’t they rent? It is obviously far too expensive. But why is it too expensive? Because Israel is the ultimate embodiment of a corrupted, hard speculative, capitalist society. And I guess that this is the real untold story here. If Zionism was an attempt to solve ‘the Jewish Question’ , as the author Shahid Alam so insightfully explores, it has clearly failed since it has only managed to relocate ‘the Jewish Question’ to a new place, i.e. Palestine.

Zionism promised to bring about a new productive and ethical Jew as opposed to what it defined as the ‘Jewish Diaspora speculative capitalist’(1). It clearly failed, and the truth of the matter is, that in the Jewish State, Israeli Jews are now being subjected to the symptoms of their own very problematic culture.(2)

Israel, that was supposed to be the state of the Jewish people, has become a  haven  for  the richest  and most corrupted Jews from around the world: according to The Guardian, “out  of the seven oligarchs who controlled 50% of Russia’s economy during the 1990s, six were Jewish.”  During the last two decades, many Russian  oligarchs  have acquired  Israeli citizenship. They also secured their dirty money by investing in the Blue & White financial haven.  Wiki leaks has revealed lately that “sources in the (Israeli) police estimate that Russian organised crime (Russian Mafia) has laundered as much as US $10 billion through Israeli holdings.” (3) Mega-swindlers such as Bernie Madoff  have been channeling their money via Zionists and Israeli institutions for decades. Israel is also a leading trader in blood  diamonds. Far from being surprising, Israel is also the fourth biggest weapon dealer on the planet. Clearly, blood diamonds and guns are proving to be a great match. And it doesn’t stop there — every so often, Israel is caught engaging in organ trafficking and organ harvesting.

Increasingly, Israel seems to be nothing more than a vast  money-laundering  haven for Jewish oligarchs, swindlers, weapons dealers, organ traffickers, organised crime, and blood-diamond traders. But on top of that, rich Jews buy their holiday homes in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem: there are reports that in Tel Aviv alone, thousands of holiday properties are empty, all year round, while native Israelis cannot find a roof.

The Israeli people are yet to understand their role within this horror show: the Israeli people are yet to grasp that they are nothing but the foot soldiers in this increasingly horrendous scenario. They do not even gather that their state maintains one of the world’s strongest armies, to defend the assets of just a few of the wealthiest and most immoral Jews around.

I actually wonder whether Israelis can grasp it all. Yet the truth of the matter is, that the leaders of the present Israeli ‘real estate revolution’ want to maintain the struggle as a material seeking adventure, and they are clearly avoiding politics: the driving sentiment and motivation here is, obviously, ‘give us the keys to our new homes and we clear the square.’

I guess that it is not surprising that within such an inherently greedy and racially oriented society, the dissent that manifests will inevitably, also be reduced to sheer banal materialism.

It seems the Israelis cannot rescue themselves from their own doomed fate, , because they are blindly hijacked by their own destructive culture. As myself and a few others have been predicting for a decade or more, Israeli society is about to implode. It is really just a question of time.

Gilad Atzmon’s latest book is The Wandering Who.

1. Marxist Zionist Ber Borochov (1881-1917) argued that the class structure of European Jewry resembled an inverted ‘class-pyramid’, a structure in which a relatively small number of Jews occupied roles within the ‘productive layers’ of society as workers, whilst a significant number were settled in capitalist and speculative trades such as banking.

2. In Haaretz today Beni Ziper wrote, “I saw on television people shouting against the rich, or tycoons who control the country. Seemingly everyone thinks it’s exciting and daring and nobody reflects on  the chilling historical  equivalence with the Depression in Germany at the time of  Weimar Republic, when the ‘rich Jews who control us’ were targeted by everyone.”  Ziper is clever enough to notice a close and disturbing repetition in Jewish history. However, Ziper is also very critical of his countrymen.  “So I’m all for protests against the state, but in no way against people or groups of people, be they ‘rich’ or ‘ (Jewish) Orthodox’ or even ‘settlers’.  Whoever gives privileges to the settlers in this country and it’s not that the settlers come and rob the cashier at gunpoint.” Whether we agree with Ziper or not, it is clear that he also admits that there is a similarity between the arguments voiced in Israel against the rich, and the German right wing’s anti Semitic attitude towards Jews in the 1920’s-30’s

3. For more information about global organised crime connections with Likud or other major Israeli political parties, follow this link http://cosmos.ucc.ie/cs1064/jabowen/IPSC/php/topic.php?tid=147

Israel Economic Protests: Israel Protests Press PM Netanyahu

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

Source: JOSHUA MITNICK, WSJ, 8-7-11

Massive demonstrations across Israel against the high cost of living point to a revival in the fortunes of the country’s long-dormant left-wing movement, forcing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to focus on economic policy at a time when he enjoys broad support for his handling of policy toward the Palestinians.

In a break with an older generation of Israeli leftists, demonstrators initially dismissed as spoiled youths in Tel Aviv have reached across the country’s left-right divide by focusing exclusively on pocketbook issues rather than contested Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Although Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition doesn’t appear in danger in the short term, it could become vulnerable if the economy plays a role in the next election.

Acknowledging the protests reflect “genuine distress,” Mr. Netanyahu on Sunday appointed a committee of cabinet ministers and economic experts to formulate proposals for overhauls. He cautioned, however, that “we won’t satisfy everyone.”

On Saturday night, more than 250,000 protesters across Israel demonstrated while waving red flags symbolizing old-time socialist political movements, and chanting for “social justice” and a “welfare state.” Over the past three weeks, a small tent city in central Tel Aviv protesting runaway rents has snowballed into Israel’s largest demonstrations in recent memory, despite Mr. Netanyahu’s efforts to demonstrate attentiveness amid the criticism. Real-estate values have gone up more than a third nationwide over the past four years….READ MORE

Israel Economic Protests: Government Panel set up to review demands following mass Israeli protest

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

Source: JTA, 8-7-11

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu established a committee to examine the demands of leaders of the social justice protest movement following one of the largest demonstrations in Israel’s history.

Netanyahu at the start of the regular weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday morning announced the formation of a 15-member panel to review the demands, and to submit proposals in the next month for social and economic reform.

The previous night, an estimated 300,000 demonstrators protesting the rising costs of living had gathered in Tel Aviv, with another 20,000 protesting in Jerusalem and several thousands more in cities throughout the country.

It was the third such demonstration – and the largest –  since the protests began more than three weeks ago. Protesters chanted, among other slogans, “The people demand social justice” and “An entire generation demands a future.”

Protest leaders have already decried the committee, saying that they are looking for direct dialogue with Netanyahu. The committee will be headed by Professor Manuel Trachtenberg, chairman of the National Economic Council, and made up of Cabinet ministers, observers and economic experts.

Announcing the formation of the committee, Netanyahu said, “We are aware of the fact that working couples with children are finding it difficult to finish the month. We recognize the plight of students who cannot pay their rent. We are aware of the distress of the residents of neighborhoods, of discharged soldiers and others. We want to provide genuine solutions.

The Israeli leader acknowledged that the committee’s proposals will not please everybody, but he pledged that “We will listen to everyone. We will speak with everyone. We will hold a genuine dialogue, not pressured and perfunctory, but we will really listen both to the distress and to the proposals for solutions. In the end we will consider practical solutions. Practical solutions require choices. They also require balance.”

On Saturday night, Israeli musicians Shlomo Artzi, Rita and Yehudit Ravitz entertained the demonstrators, who also heard speeches from Daphne Leef, founder of the movement, and Rabbi Benny Lau, founder of the Beit Morasha social justice institute.

“If I could, I would show you how people have demanded social justice since the origin of Judaism,” Lau told the crowd.

Israel Economic Protests: Full Text PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s Remarks at the Start of the Weekly Cabinet Meeting about Housing Protests

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

Source: PMO, 8-7-11

“In recent weeks we have witnessed public protests that are giving expression to genuine distress.  The distress is focused on the cost of living and the cost of housing but it has many other aspects.  I understand this distress; I am attentive to it, as is the Cabinet.  We started to deal with several of the problems when the Government was formed; for example, housing reform, the plan that saved higher education and a plan – for roads and railways – that is now bringing the periphery closer to the center.

However, there are additional areas that need to be dealt with.  It is impossible to ignore the voices coming from the public and there is no reason for doing so.  We want to give genuine solutions.  We will give them.  I would like to give these solutions, in a thorough – not cosmetic – way, i.e. a genuine change in the order of priorities, a change that will ease the economic burden on Israelis.

We are aware of the fact that working couples with children are finding it difficult to finish the month.  We recognize the plight of students who cannot pay their rent.  We are aware of the distress of the residents of neighborhoods, of discharged soldiers and others.  We want to provide genuine solutions.

Today, I am appointing a professional committee chaired by Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg.  The Trajtenberg Committee will be comprised of professionals from within and outside the government.  Prof. Trajtenberg will need a day or two to complete the list of outside experts.  This Committee will hold a broad dialogue with different groups and sectors within the public.  The committee will listen to the distress and to proposals, and will make recommendations that will be submitted to the Social and Economic Cabinet chaired by Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz.

After the Social and Economic Cabinet hears these proposals, final recommendations will be formulated and submitted to me.  I intend to submit the plan to the whole Cabinet.  I want full Cabinet backing for the major change that we are about to bring to the Israeli economy.

I would like to say a few words why I chose Prof. Trajtenberg to chair the Committee.  Manuel is a rare combination of an economist and a man with social sensitivity.  Until recently, he chaired the National Economic Council.  Afterwards, he took it upon himself to save higher education, which had been in deep crisis for a decade, and did so in exemplary fashion.  Indeed, there is a change and everyone can see it.  Much of this is due to you, Manuel.  You outlined a vision and brought the solution.  Manuel is familiar with the Government as well as the public.  He also believes in the idea of the roundtable, or, I should say, round tables, since I will need to open many round tables in order to listen to many people, within a short time.

My request is that the recommendations of the professional committee that you will chair be brought to Social and Economic Cabinet and afterwards to the entire Cabinet within the next month.  This is not a lot of time.  The workload will be heavy but I know that it will be done with great effort, in order to really bring about change.

This change must be focused on several areas that I will define to the Committee.  First, proposals to change the list of priorities in order to ease the economic burden on Israelis.  Second, change the combination of tax payments.  Third, expanding access to social services.  Fourth, increasing competition and efficiency in the markets for goods and services in order to reduce prices.  Five, steps to implement the housing plan that we have already launched.  I add that the team’s recommendations will give expression to the need to maintain fiscal responsibility in the state budget.  Responsibility is especially necessary in a period of economic uncertainty.

We are in a period of economic uncertainty.  Yesterday, something happened which had not occurred in the previous 70 years, since countries began to receive credit ratings.  The credit rating of the US, the greatest economic power in the world, was lowered by Standard and Poor’s.  This event joins with the crisis that is spreading to the major economies of Europe.  It is possible that 120-130 million Europeans live in countries that are on the verge of bankruptcy and mass unemployment.

Therefore, we must act with economic responsibility here while making the corrections that express social sensitivity.  We must act in two spheres simultaneously.  It is very difficult to build an economy.  I have dealt with this, along with many of you.  We dealt with building the Israeli economy.  Twice, we led it from severe crises, in 2003 and in 2008.  We did so successfully.  We built the economy.  The economy is strong and it withstood these crises as it will yet withstand others that await us.

However, we know that we must make the internal corrections.  As we succeeded in crossing stormy economic waters, we will also make the social corrections, with sensitivity, and with responsibility.  I am convinced that we will succeed.

A last remark.  We will be unable to please everybody.  One cannot please everybody.  It is impossible to take the sum total of the demands regarding all the distress and say, and boast, that we can meet them all.  We will listen to everyone.  We will speak with everyone.  We will hold a genuine dialogue, not pressured and perfunctory, but we will really listen both to the distress and to the proposals for solutions.  In the end, we will consider practical solutions.  Practical solutions require choices.  They also require balance.

I think that the Cabinet can unite behind the professional team that we are bringing here.  I would like to very much thank Manuel, that you agreed to take upon yourself this difficult task.  I know that you held intense discussions and were not without hesitation.  We know that there are things which are not yet clear; we will need to clarify them.  I am certain of one thing.  I am certain that I chose the best person in the State of Israel to take up this difficult mission.”

Professor Trajtenberg: “In recent weeks, we have witnessed a very strong, very impressive and unconventional process that has taken place in Israeli society and among the Israeli public.  What clearly arises from it is that on the one hand, there is the expression of frustration, pain and disappointment that a reasonable economic existence seems distant, even uncertain, for young working families.  On the other hand, there is, within this process, the expression of a very tangible yearning, hope and longing for social justice.

Pain on the one hand and longing on the other signify a great potential for a change for the better within Israeli society.  To a large extent, this depends on the ability to translate these genuine feelings from the language of protest into a language of deeper professional understanding and eventually into the language of action, policy and implementation.  The translator’s task is not easy.  The dictionaries of the past will not help.  They failed.  We must find, we must perhaps invent the Rosetta Stone that will allow us to do the work.

Mr. Prime Minister, I decided to accept this task and this is a tribute to your powers of persuasion and your Finance Minister’s entreaties.  But I admit that I do so with mixed feelings.  On the one hand, I do so with great excitement because we have before us a rare opportunity to bring about genuine change in our dear country.  On the other hand, I do so with a deep awareness of the great responsibility that this task entails, given the expectations and the risks.

Mr. Prime Minister, I thank you very much for the confidence that you have vested in me.  You may be certain that beyond the mix of excitement and unease that I feel at the moment, my commitment, and that of the team that will be set up, is full and without hesitation.  We have no alternative but success, success – first of all – in listening and in outlining a wise and very responsible policy given the reality around us.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu: “Thank you very much.  On behalf of the entire Cabinet as well as – I think – the Israeli people, thank you.”

Israel Economic Protests: 320,000 Protesters Take to Tel Aviv Streets

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

Source: Virtual Jerusalem, 8-7-11

An estimated 320,000 Israeli protesters took the streets on Saturday night to protest the high cost of living and lack of affordable housing, more than double the number that had turned out the previous Saturday night.

The demonstrators were specifically protesting the enactment of the israel protestsNational Housing Committee Law, which they do not see as a solution to the housing situation.

In the largest show of force, 280,000 Israelis marched from Habimah Square to the government office complex in Tel Aviv’s Kaplan Street, while 30,000 demonstrated in Jerusalem, and there were smaller demonstrations in other cities across the country.

Protesters chanted “The people demand social justice” as they marched through the streets of Tel Aviv.

In response to the demonstrations, Minister of Transport Israel Katz said, “The message has been heard. The prime minister will announce the setting up of a team of ministers to negotiate with the leaders of the protesters and by September we will form a new economic plan. We will change our order of priorities. Government cuts are not on the agenda and it will be possible to divert some budgets and lower some of the indirect taxes.”

One of the protest leaders Stav Sapir said, “I don’t think it is possible to stop this huge protest. The people are out on the streets. I pray that this thing succeeds. For a long time this has not been the protest of just the middle class – this is a protest of the entire people that simply cannot make ends meet.”

One protester carrying his son on his shoulders told “Globes,” “I’m here for my son. It is not right that a father cannot help his son but that is the situation in our country.”

Student Union leader Itzik Shmuli received a massive response when he demanded the release of Gilad Shalit. Singer Shlomo Artzi had the crowd rocking with the chorus of his song that “Yesterday was great and tomorrow will be too.” Artzi also led the chants of “The people demand social justice.”

Israel Economic Protests: Splits Appear in Tent Protest Leadership

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

Source: Virtual Jerusalem, 8-5-11

In the midst of tent protest leaders’ preparations for Saturdaytel aviv housing crisis tent cities night’s massive march, voices are calling for a change in leadership.

Adam Dovzhinsky, one of the tent protesters at Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard, has been on hunger strike for 16 days. He said today, “The protesters are sitting and suffering here. Amid the heat, noise, and bellyaches, more and more people are talking about an alternative leadership. The people going to the press conferences, to the Knesset, and who are in the media front lines do not represent us. They’re not even sitting here. A demand has been made to oust the prime minister – a political demand – and that is not a real demand of the people sitting in the tents.”

Dovzhinsky is not the only disgruntled demonstrator. Many agree with him, saying that the rising demands and dialogue are made by people with no burning need to end the situation. Tent protesters say that they would also like to see Shas supporters join them. “It isn’t clear to us why, until now, social movements like it have not joined us. The moment that happens, we’ll have huge power here that no on will be able to withstand,” said Dovzhinsky.

Dovzhinsky and his colleagues say that there are similar rumblings at other tent protest sites around the country. “My demands for ending my hunger strike are simple,” he says, “I want the prime minister to meet and talk with us, and I want a law passed to cap rent, as in many other places in the world. That’s the beginning.”

Dovzhinsky adds that he has received no reply to his letter to the Prime Minister’s Bureau.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news – http://www.globes-online.com

Israel Economic Protests: PM Benjamin Netanyahu Slams Tent Protesters

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

Source: Virtual Jerusalem, 8-4-11

In a speech to the Knesset today following approval of his National Housing Committees Law, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu castigated the tent protesters. “There is distress in Israel, but it should be solved in a responsible way. A wave of populism is sweeping the country. Our ability to meet social needs greatly depends on continued growth,” he said.

Netanyahu was frequently heckled during his speech, including by MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima), who shouted, “Where have you been until now?tel aviv  housing crisis tent cities

“63 years ago, our GDP was the same as Egypt’s, Syria’s, and our neighbors whose populations were much larger,” Netanyahu continued. Had we not increased our GDP per capita, we could not have met our economic burden, and therefore our economic vehicle is vital, and heaven forbid if, when seeking solutions and correcting the distortions that need correcting, we must not disable this vehicle. Then we’ll be in far greater distress.”

Netanyahu warned against deterioration in Israel’s economy, which would result in conditions similar to those in debt-burdened European countries. “If what has happened in Europe happens to us, the damage we will suffer will be far greater than what has happened to them.”

He also mentioned Israel’s low unemployment rate compared with Western countries, saying, “At a time when unemployment is rising in Western economies, it is falling in Israel.”

Netanyahu spoke proudly of the measures his government has instituted as part of the biennial 2011-12 budget. “We’ve invested NIS 7 billion in a multiyear plan that is bringing back people from the best universities in the world. We’ve invested almost NIS 30 billion in roads and railways – we’re doing this. We’ve moved the IDF south to the Negev, we’ve invested NIS 17 billion in this. Officers, senior NCOs, families, 10,000 IDF personnel will hold up the Negev.”

As for the issue of Israel’s indirect taxes, against which the middle class is protesting, Netanyahu said, “There are Israeli citizens who are saying, ‘OK, our salaries are rising and income per capita is rising, and yet, if I’m a working young couple with two children, it’s hard for me to make ends meet.’ The question is why?

“The answer is that we’re not at Europe’s price levels. There, most prices and many services cost less, even when taxes are lowered. The price Israeli citizens pay for basic goods in higher than in Western countries.”

Netanyahu said that a lack of competition was the main reason for the high cost of living.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news – http://www.globes-online.com

Israel Economic Protests: More Giant Housing Protests Planned for Upcoming Weekend

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

Source: Virtual Jerusalem, 8-3-11

Protest leaders met again today to formulate their demands from the government, after writing a preliminary list of demands yesterday. National Union of Israeli Students chairman Itzik Shmuli said that progress was being made, and that the protesters have no intention of giving up their struggle.

“We are united, but not uniform, and we have a common goal,” he said. “We won’t stop for a moment, and we’re preparing for a huge protest on Saturday night following the signals we’re getting from the prime minister. Let there be no doubt, we’re fighting for just one thing – to build our home in Israel. This is a protest of the whole nation. Last Saturday night, 200,000 people from the People of Israel – not weirdos or anarchists – went into the streets. We won’t give up.”
israel protests
The protesters also reacted angrily to the news that the Knesset had passed the National Housing Committee Law and blocked major junctions across the country. The protestors also plan a major march in Tel Aviv tomorrow night to protest the passing of the law.

Specific demands reached by all the parties so far include cutting indirect taxes, especially VAT, investing surplus tax revenues in citizens through the state budget, increasing the Ministry of Housing and Construction’s budget for mortgage and rent assistance and easing eligibility criteria, and increasing government aid. The protesters have also agreed on extending free education from the age of three months; to add positions, hospital beds, equipment, and infrastructures to the healthcare system nationwide to OECD levels; and to halt the privatization of welfare and mental health agencies and an and to outsourcing civil service jobs.

This is still only a first draft of demands, and more drafts will be written.

The protest leaders said today that various demands published in the media and detailed in financial costs originated in a position paper for changing Israel’s social and economic policies written by Dror Israel several months ago. That position paper relies on data and studies by top Israeli and foreign economists.

Responding to Ministry of Finance claims that the costs of the demands are inaccurate, the protest headquarters said that this was disinformation. “First, we consider the emerging public debate on how to increase the budget to be important and significant. The heart of the matter is an argument between world views. One view holds that the optimal state budget is one in which the government intervenes as little as possible in the market, privatizes as much as possible, and reduces its involvement. This is the policy that has existed for over 30 years in Israel, and it is precisely why people have hit the streets.

“The second view promotes policies which say that if there are tax surpluses, the money should be invested back in us, the citizens. The time has come to realize that citizens, too, have the right to an opinion on economic conduct.”

As for the financial estimates, the protest leaders say that cutting VAT from 16% to 5% would cost NIS 60 billion (NIS 15 billion a year over four years). At the same time, cancelling the cuts in income and company taxes would generate NIS 22 billion in revenues. A protest leader said, “The pricing in the plan is based on calculations by the Government Revenues Administration about the consequences of not implementing the Rabinovich committee recommendations.”

Another protest leader said, “There have been claims that there are no surplus tax revenues. First of all, this is a figure that the Accountant General has published. The argument that there are no tax surpluses is based on Israel’s debt, but there is no country without debt. The surpluses we’re talking about came after the massive reduction in the debt-GDP ratio – the fastest reduction in the OECD.”

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news – http://www.globes-online.com

Israel Economic Protests: With protests, Israelis are seeking the revival of welfare state

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

Source: JTA, 8-2-11

The wave of protests sweeping Israel is about much more than the lack of affordable housing: It’s a grass-roots demand for the major redistribution of the nation’s wealth.

Israeli students, holding a sign reading "Welfare state now!," protest outside the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem against the high cost of living, Aug. 1, 2011.  (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

In social terms, protesters are calling for a more caring government attuned to the needs of young, middle-class citizens who serve in the army, pay heavy taxes and provide the engine driving the country’s burgeoning economy.

In economic terms, it is a call for the reversal of nearly three decades of fiscal conservativism at the expense of social services such as education, health and welfare, as well as an appeal against eroding salaries and rising prices.

In other words, the protesters are demanding that today’s thriving free-market Israel use its wealth to create conditions for a restoration of at least some elements of the long-defunct Israeli welfare state.

As an estimated 150,000 people demonstrated Saturday night in 12 locations across the country, the central theme was a demand for “social justice.” To some, it was reminiscent of the students’ revolt in Paris in the late 1960s: an alliance of students, workers and, in the Israeli case, a large, financially strapped middle class of people mostly in their 20s and 30s demanding a new economic order.

But there were key differences: In the Israeli case, there was no violence. Instead, there was a veiled, largely unspoken threat: that if the government fails to act and middle-class people continue to struggle to make ends meet, many more of the best and brightest would leave for countries where there is no defense burden and it’s easier to make a living.

As the protests entered their third week, the great Israeli paradox loomed large: Never has the country been economically stronger, yet never have so many of its young people felt so frustrated at their own personal financial status.

The current situation is partly a result of a constitutional lacuna….READ MORE

Israel Economic Protests: Netanyahu Refuses to Speak to Protesters

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF


Source: Virtual Jerusalem, 8-1-11

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said this netanyahu protestsevening that he is not prepared to negotiate with the protesters, or even meet with them. However, while he is not ready to hold talks directly with them, he said that they were “invited to talk to Minister of Finance Yuval Steinitz.”

Earlier today Netanyahu had told a meeting of the Likud faction in the Knesset that, “The claims being made on the streets are justified and therefore we need to deal with it but without harming the business sector.”

Published by Globes, Israel business news – http://www.globes-online.com

Israel Economic Protests: Tent Cities Pop Up in Protest of Housing Crisis

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

Source: Virtual Jerusalem, 7-29-11

On Rothschild Boulevard, Tel Aviv’s version of Park Avenue, a burgeoning tent city has sprung up amid crowded cafes and its canopy of ficus trees.

The squatters are protesting soaring housing prices in the country, and they have galvanized a sudden full-scale national protest, from Kiryat Shemona in the North to Beersheva in the South, that has plunged the government into crisis mode.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled a planned trip to Poland this week and the interior minister has called for ttel aviv housing crisis tent citieshe Knesset to cancel its summer recess. Tent cities are swelling in cities across Israel, protesters are blocking roads and activists have practically besieged the Knesset. On Saturday evening, an estimated 20,000 marchers filled the streets of Tel Aviv calling for affordable housing.

“For years, Israelis have been like zombies because of the security situation and did not speak out when other areas were ignored, like education and the economy,” said Amir Ben-Cohen, a 30-year-old graduate student camping out on Rothschild Boulevard. “Enough. We are a new generation.”

Some are hailing the protests as Israel’s version of the Arab Spring. This Israeli Summer movement is being led by university students and young professionals in their 20s and 30s who until now have shown little interest in demonstrations or activism. One sign strung between tents in Tel Aviv read, “Rothschild, corner of Tahrir,” a reference to the Egyptian uprising that centered in Tahrir Square.

With a recent Haaretz poll showing 87 percent of Israelis supporting the housing protesters, their grievances appear to be striking a chord nationwide.

Like much of the world, Israelis recently have seen cost-of-living metrics rise across the board, especially for food and gas. But unlike in the United States, where real estate prices are in retreat, housing prices in Israel have skyrocketed, on average doubling since 2002.

With the average Israeli salary at $2,500 a month and modest-sized apartments in Jerusalem and the Tel Aviv area selling for $600,000, many Israelis feel priced out of their own neighborhoods, particularly young people who live in places where there is a dearth of rental properties….READ MORE

Israel Economic Protests: Protesters Reject Netanyahu’s Housing Plan

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

Source: Virtual Jerusalem, 7-27-11

The leaders of the Rothschild Blvd. tent protest in Tel Aviv reject Prime Minister Netanyahu’s proposals on how to end the crisis, and vow to escalate their struggle. In a press conference yesterday at the encampment, the protest leaders accused Netanyahu and his ministers of failing to understand the depth of the people’s distress, and that this was reflected in the prime minister’s proposals.

Dafni Leif, one of the protest leaders, said, “Netanyahu remembered this morning that he had something small and marginal to take care of – a people. We have heard his plans and we want to tell him that we weren’t born yesterday. What he is offering us all is a huge fraud. He is continuing with, and even exacerbating, his and his government’s cynical policies.”

We say NOnetanyahu housing

Leif said that the prime minister, “is lying to all of us when he presents these solutions, whose masterpiece is that the state will give land for free to the contractors, who happen to be friends with the prime minister. They will get to build them, but the buildings will not be sold for free. This is what he calls affordable housing. This plan is a direct continuation of this government’s privatization plans. We say no to Netanyahu’s proposals.”

Yigal Rambam, another of the Rothschild Blvd. protest leaders, said, “The ground is heating up. There are 1,000 tents spread around the country. There are demonstrations every day, displays of strength. The spontaneous blocking of intersections two days ago was a reaction to the prime minister’s attempt to hijack the protest and pass the National Housing Commissions Law. We have shown the prime minister that the people are powerful.” Rambam added, “We will continue with our struggle until they return to us our right to live in dignity and to see a future.”

Stav Shafir, another protest leader, bitterly criticized the housing law. “This is more of a vandal’s law than anything else. It is violence against the people. How can they present this law as a step that will bring about affordable housing? Who will receive this affordable housing?”

Protesters living at the Tel Aviv encampment explained their resentment over Netanyahu’s promise to reduce the price of public transportation for students by 50%. They accused his policy of “divide and rule” while at the same time not providing solutions for distress in the broader sectors in society. “And what about the single mothers and the elderly?”

We don’t want cake, we want bread

Protest leaders promised to continue with their wide-range protest activities over the next few days, which will reach a peak on Saturday night, when large protests will take place simultaneously in many cities around the country. “We demand that Bibi does social justice here,” Leif said.

“Our revolution began on the same day as the French Revolution. There too the ruler failed to understand what he was up against. We don’t want cake, we want bread. We would like to tell the Minister of Taxes Yuval Steinitz that we do not wish to live in penthouses, we want to live in apartments,” Leif proclaimed.

A the start of the press conference, there was a confrontation between some of the tent protesters, who claimed that the protest leaders were operating on their own and did not represent all the participants in the protest. One of them, Eyal Tsafadiya, said, “The leadership is operating on its own and is not including all the protesters in its decisions, and in our opinion does not represent the overall group. There is no coordination between all the protesters.”

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news – http://www.globes-online.com

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