Supporting Israel’s middle class
Contrary to the cries of the protesters, it is the government that is making real strides in making this country fairer.
Social protests 370 Photo: Michael Omer-Man
This summer’s social protests do not have the same energy as last year’s. And
Without a specific platform, it is hard to get people
enthusiastic for another wave of mass demonstrations. “Social justice” is not
going to come from those whose only articulated goal is the toppling of the
Contrary to the cries of the protesters, it is the government
that is making real strides in making this country fairer. This month, the
Knesset passed the Economic Concentration Bill on its first reading.
law is about opening the financial markets to greater competition – a step that
will revolutionize the way we do business on every level. It will take years for
a more competitive financial market to develop, but once the process has begun,
there will be no stopping it.
Moreover, this bill restricts business
groups with a pyramid structure. Today, almost all pension funds are invested in
large-scale pyramid schemes, which by definition are risky. Banning two- and
three-level pyramid schemes means greater transparency for our savings programs,
less risk and more competition.
This increased competition has the
potential to affect all aspects of the economy, leading to a palpable reduction
in the cost of living – something every summer protester should
In my eyes, the Economic Concentration Bill is an example of the
government fulfilling its role to make the conditions fairer and more conducive
to the average person’s reaching his or her earning potential through hard work.
The proposed law may not be perfect and may yet undergo some changes. But the
principle is right and marks tremendous progress for Israel.
I am well
aware that reducing the cost of living through increased market competition is
not what the protest leaders had in mind when they called for government
intervention. They wanted more government subsidies.
As someone who grew
up in the Soviet Union, I have a natural aversion to big government. But beyond
my personal experience, throughout Europe we see that big government is
ultimately unaffordable (I am fond of Margaret Thatcher’s line, “The trouble
with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money”) and
discourages people from taking full financial responsibility of their
No one can argue with the protesters’ claims that the middle class
has trouble making ends meet in spite of working full time and that housing is
But the answer is not more government subsidies. Instead it
is good legislation that protects the little guy and allows for more competition
to bring prices down.
Housing is a complex issue that cries out for
For years, Yisrael Beytenu has been advancing policies to free up
more government land for residential purposes, to have more building tenders,
and to reduce the crushing bureaucracy involved in construction.
filed a High Court petition against the Housing Minister to introduce an
earning-capacity criterion so that tax payers receive priority over those who
live off of state subsidies. Some Haredi leaders see this as an attack on their
community. But really it is simply giving the working middle class their fair
If the protests took up the call for affordable housing through the
policies mentioned above, we could reach a critical mass of support to push
legislation through that could put home-ownership within reach for so
The summer protests have the potential to bring urgent issues to
the top of the public agenda. Calls for big government will not bring us the
financial security we seek. We need to continue in the path of the Concentration
Bill, both giving people the support they need and removing any unnecessary
obstacles to maximize their earning potential.
I, as a member of Knesset,
would be heartened to see a successful summer protest. An informed and
politically active public is good for democracy. Let’s move away from nebulous
cries for change and concentrate on good legislation and together improve the
lives of many.
The writer is a member of Knesset for Israel Beiteinu.