By David Sandovsky, Attorney
The middle-class has no choice but to take to the streets in the summer months of 2013 and demonstrate against what is causing it to become impoverished
The social movement of the summer 2011 was a protest by the middle-class against it being used as a "source of reserve power" to fuel the economy. On February 18, 2011, just a few months before the start of the social protest, the journalist Eyal David wrote in "Ma'ariv" (Israeli newspaper) an article showing the progressive impoverishment of a middle-class that was caught between opposite forces: Israeli "Mubaraks", "tycoons" (captains of industry) and "special interest groups". He recently wrote again about that paradigm (see his article in Ma'ariv, 9/5/2013). To assuage the 2011 protests, Netanyahu established a committee (the "Trachtenberg Committee") chaired by Prof. Emanuel Trachtenberg, to examine major demands of the protest movement and recommend actions to meet them. Of all that committee's recommendations, only one was adopted; that of compulsory, free schooling for children from age three. The implementation of that measure now is threatened by the budgetary cuts proposed by Finance Minister Yair Lapid, in order to reduce the huge budgetary deficit inherited from the previous government.
In summer of 2012 attempts were made to reignite embers of the social movement of 2011, which caused government authorities to take restrictive measures to curb them; going so far as to bring the leader of the movement, Daphna Lin, to trial. In addition Israel experienced a summer of government scare tactics based on the Iranian nuclear issue. Moshe Silman set himself on fire during a social justice protest, becoming a "martyr" to trigger public protests against the absence of solutions to the housing situation (extremely high prices unaffordable to only the most affluent). His suicide was swept under the rug and it failed to arouse public opinion in support of "accessible housing". That issue has won only lip-service from politicians; housing prices continue to rise and with them, land and building taxes, fees collected by central and local governments, profits of real-estate entrepreneurs and of banks. Property rights of international companies investing in real-estate in Israel are stronger than the rights of the middle class to accessible housing.
As the budget deficit burden was becoming unmanageable and the Iranian "spin" less convincing, Netanyahu was left with no other option than to disperse parliament, calling for an early election. That postponed adoption of the budget law and "Hok Hahasderim" ("The "Agreements Law" was introduced in 1985 by the government. It originally aimed at reaching a consensus between parties for austerity programs required to fight hyper-inflation in a pre-election year. Intended as an extraordinary, temporary, measure, the law was not cancelled after economic stability was reached and has since evolved into an ubiquitous, all encompassing instrument to control the budget so as to "align" the Knesset's decision-making process on budgetary matters with government proposals." see in this magazine, F. Braun, January 2013: "Election Campaign. What is it they don't see"). The postponement of the last budget law justified continuing the recently-introduced, and much criticized, two-year budget system into fiscal years 2013-2014. It also has maintained the law on "Revahim Kluim" (law on "retained profits" passed by the government in November 2012, which allows companies that "agree" to reinvest half of their profits in Israel for a year, to realize those profits and benefit from tax exemptions of 40% to 70%, which are estimated to add up to several milliard shekels, enough to cover a good part of this year's budget deficit).
During his election campaign, the “comet” that is Yair Lapid and his party, "Yesh Atid", backed by the Israeli press broke into the political scene by creating a false impression in public opinion, by its contention that it represented a "New Politics", which in fact was anti-democratic. His list of candidates was made up by one man pretending to represent "the social protest movement" and the "protest of the "Freirim" ("patsies") who serve in the army", while many are exempted from army service. The campaign blinded people's eyes so they did see that in reality this man is part of the power oligarchy of Israel and that he does not represent the Israeli middle-class which, as in the USA, is sliding into impoverishment. Yair Lapid's list of candidates was not even made to appear as having been chosen in a democratic way.
Since the establishment of the third "Netanyahu" government, Yair Lapid has been busy with the 2013-2014 budget law and the new law of "hesderim", following in meticulous detail the paradigm laid down by the previous government. Lapid enjoys the blessing of the people who represent the "Old Politics" and their program, including PM Netanyahu, President Peres, Ofer Eini, Chairman of the Histadrut, and Yuval Steinitz, his predecessor at the Finance Ministry. He also enjoys the unqualified support of "brother" Benet. He recently met with the "king maker" of the Republicans, Sheldon Adelson (American billionaire with right-wing political views), which speaks for itself. Ron Lauder is also pleased. This is not "New Politics" – only recycled rummage.
The middle-class people he has disappointed are left with no choice except to return to the streets in the summer months of 2013 – to prevent the continuation of the paradigm of abuses at the source of their economic and social weakening. Yair Lapid has made the worst choices: to leave intact the privileges of a small minority of people in the highest income bracket, to cut on social services, to widen the deficit at the risk of hurting Israel's credit ranking and leading it on the road that brought Greece to the situation in which it finds itself today.