“Netanyahu is Losing Control”

For background on these ongoing protests, see the links at the end of the post, cross-linked at Daily Kos.

Protests in Israel broadened in scope today as protest leaders rejected Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s plan to solve the housing crisis, with groups across the country chanting “Bibi go home” and “we want justice.”

The protests, which have centered around skyrocketing housing costs, and which gained momentum after Saturday’s 30,000-strong rally, appeared today to be spreading to other interest groups, including those angry about recently-passed, anti-democratic laws.

Calcalist, Israel’s daily economic publication produced by Yehidot Ahronot, today published a bold headline “Netanyahu Losing Control,” and observers noted that things seemed to be getting worse politically for Israel’s Prime Minister.

Calcalist's front page this morning Calcalist’s front page for July 26, with the headline “Netanyahu Losing Control” in bold at the bottom, accompanied by a litany of sub-headings, including “Working mothers plan protest march,” “Hundreds of dairy farmers blocked roads,” and “Protests near the Knesset intensified.” Photo courtesy of Israeli journalist Yossi Gurvitz.

Today’s Developments

In a televised press conference today, Netanyahu tried to quell the growing protests by offering a number of benefits to students and young people, including discounted housing options, the construction of 10,000 two- and three-bedroom housing units for the young, and lowered transportation costs.

However, protest leaders, booing his speech from an outdoor television in Tel Aviv, rejected the plan out-of-hand, calling it nothing more than bribery and saying “we weren’t born yesterday“:

Earlier, at the tent-city press conference, 26-year-old Tel Avivian Daphni Leef, who started the protest movement nearly two weeks ago, said the prime minister’s plan left the vast majority of people without an answer to the spiraling costs of living.

“Netanyahu said he will give plots of land out for free, and who will get them? Those people in Israel in need? No, those who will get them are the contractors, and the rest of his wealthy friends who can build on land free of charge. [The] houses will be the opposite of free. This is what Netanyahu presented as low-income housing covered by the state. It will actually be the largest privatization to be carried out in the history of his rotten premiership.

“What Mr. Netanyahu proposed was nothing less than fraud. Not only will he continue his cynical politics, but worsen them, and he dared to look us straight in the eye and lied when he presented these offers.

“Our answer to his offer is ‘No,’ Leef said.

“We here in Tel Aviv may be young, but we weren’t born yesterday.”

After the speech, protesters in Jerusalem, Haifa, Tel Aviv, Ashdod and Be’er Sheva marched and chanting “Bibi go home” and “we want justice.” The largest numbers were seen in Haifa, where thousands took to the streets:

After rejecting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to solve Israel’s housing crisis, activists continued to protest across the country on Tuesday. Approximately two thousand activists marched in Haifa, chanting “Bibi go home” and “we want justice, not charity.” Elderly residents cheered the young protesters as they passed by.

Protest 6

Thousands of protesters marched today in Haifa.
Photo courtesy of Hagai Fried of Ha’aretz.

Protest leaders today said that, this weekend, they are planning to more than double this past weekend’s mass rally, pledging that 100,000 people will march in solidarity across Israel.

Protests May Be Expanded by More Interest Groups

Journalists at the protest site in Tel Aviv are reporting that the “tent city” protesters this weekend are planning to combine the largely economic rally with groups against the recent anti-boycott law, which many have criticized as profoundly undemocratic. According to Dimi Reider

…the main economic protest in Tel Aviv [will be] joining forces with a preplanned mass protest against recent anti-democratc legislation, such as the boycott law.


Author’s Note 1: I want to make clear that I am not going to conflate these economic protests with the issue of the settlements and I/P, for the Israeli-Palestinian issue has been almost entirely absent from these protests. (A Jewish and Palestinian joint camp was set up in the highly segregated city of Akkotoday, but this is as far as anyone has gone.)

However, many journalists in Israel have wondered aloud why the protesters themselves haven’t conflated the issues, given the connection some view exists between rising housing costs and the government’s focus on subsidized housing and building in the settlements. It’s a legitimate question.

An Israel journalist, Joseph Dana, noting the marked absence of protesters’ mentioning the issue of the settlements in their rhetoric, today took to the streets to ask about this issue.

And while Dana’s observations are merely anecdotal, below are the tweets he fired off after meeting with main protesters in the Tel Aviv camp:

Many protesters at #j14 tent city want to talk about occupation but feel that it will end their support in Israeli society.

I think that general israeli society is not ready for the #j14 protests and the protesters fear that the public could turn on them

Most #j14 protesters are not dumb and understand that everything is connected. They are just silenced by Israeli society and opinion

Make of these what you will, for Dana is clearly one who would like to see the issues conflated. Nevertheless, I think it is fair to say that these protesters, most of whom are highly educated, have considered their tactics very carefully, and have largely excluded peripheral issues for a reason up to this point.

It will be interesting to see which groups will try to latch on to the momentum of these protests, such as farmers, striking doctors and those against the anti-boycott law have already done.

Author’s Note 2: For background on these protests to catch you up to speed, reference the following:

+ Israel Erupting in Protests
+ Understanding the tent protests
+ Why we march tonight
+ Netanyahu rebukes ministers: give me ideas to solve housing crisis


About David Harris-Gershon

David Harris-Gershon – a blogger for Tikkun magazine and a freelance writer on Israel, the Middle East and America’s role in the region – has recently published work in The Jerusalem Post, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, AlterNet, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Colorado Review and elsewhere. His memoir – What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife? – is forthcoming from Oneworld Publications (2013). He received his MFA from the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, and has worked extensively as an educator, teaching creative writing and Israeli History / Jewish Studies in university and high school classrooms. Follow David on Twitter @David_EHG

Posted on July 27, 2011, in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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