There are more groups demanding resources from the government, even while criticism of the protesters is also increasing.
Adding to those wanting affordable housing and lower prices on cottage cheese and other food are:
1. Parents and grandparents demanding the extension of mandatory paid maternity leave from three months to six, and free child care and education from the age of three months onward
2. Providers of child care demanding higher wages
3. Parents of autistic children demanding greater allocations for their needs
4. Young police officers noting that their monthly wages of ₪ 5,000 ($1,445) render them sympathetic to the demonstrators they are charged with keeping orderly
5. Dairy farmers complaining that imports designed to lower consumer prices will cause them hardship
6. Nurses demanding the allocation of more resources for additional staff and hospital facilities.
Still unresolved are demands of physicians for higher salaries and improved working conditions.
News that will add to protesters'' (and others'') criticism of the country''s tycoons is that Yitzhak Tshuva, a principal in major energy and real estate ventures, including a gas field being developed off the coast, is asking investors to accept revised terms for company debts, due to difficulties in making the payments. Only a few months ago Israelis read about the 1,500 guests invited to the wedding of Tshuva''s son, which featured big name entertainment and was said to cost ₪ 7 million ($ 2 million).
The Prime Minister''s proposal to speed planning approvals passed the Knesset, with protesters and opposition politicians united in criticizing it as likely to favor contractors and the wealthy, rather than young couples.
With all that, there is a different tone being heard from usually left-of-center opinion leaders.
The most recent cartoon of Ha''aretz shows a middle-aged woman, most likely of North African or Asian origin, dumping waste water from her balcony on tent dwellers below. A non-literal translation of her Hebrew is, "I was also deprived!! Kiss my ass and suffer."
The Marker (Ha''aretz business supplement) compares the costs and benefits claimed by protesters for some of their proposals with those calculated by the newspaper''s staff along with personnel from the Finance Ministry and independent experts. They find that protesters'' demand to reduce Value Added Tax from 16 to 5 percent will cost the government ₪ 40 billion, and not the ₪ 15 billion claimed. They find that the increase in the upper brackets of the income tax will produce ₪ 15 billion and not the ₪ 22 billion claimed. And while protesters claim that there is a ₪ 10 billion surplus in current tax revenues that can be used for increased spending on social programs, the newspaper''s analysis is that there is no tax surplus. (August 3, p. 4)
Yaron London and Moti Kirschenbaum, hosts of a popular news and discussion program, are generally in the same segment of the political spectrum as the editors and journalists of Ha''aretz. Among their guests on August 2nd was Israel Harel, a leader of Religious Nationalist settlers in the West Bank. The hosts asked him to comment on the general absence of young religious Jews from tent cities and protest demonstrations. The essence of his response was that when faced with hardships, such people are inclined to make do with what they can achieve, and to chose locales where they can also help others less fortunate. In Harel''s view, the protesters are disproportionately from well to do families who appear to have been spoiled by a lack of challenge and decent values in their upbringing.
No one is saying what follows in exactly these terms, but it is possible to infer the government''s approach to demonstrators from what is being said and done, and what is not being said and done.
Be willing to listen.
Explain that demands are expensive, requiring clear definition and prioritizing.
Allow demands to expand, and criticism to grow from within and outside the protesters.
Rely on an increasing tempo of criticism directed at the protesters for a lack of reason, good sense, restraint, overtly partisan motives, and anarchistic temperaments that can ruin what Israel has produced in six decades.
My own background may have prepared me to identify with the woman in the cartoon sloshing her waste water onto the college students wanting a better life at the government''s expense. I am the grandson of a peddler and son of a small merchant, raised in a failing industrial city with high unemployment. I recall Israel being closer than at present to a socialist paradise, where subsidized bus fares were the equivalent of $ 0.10, family physicians received the wages of high school teachers, and there was virtually free public housing for the poor. Then Menachem Begin''s colleagues in Likud waged their election campaign of 1981 on the basis of more goodies for all, and inflation reached 474 percent three years later.
For the most part, college students in their early or mid-20s have had a good life when compared to the world as a whole. Perhaps not good enough when compared to some of the places they are learning about. Their lives could be better if their country did not have a defense budget three or four times higher than those of countries with higher standards of living, and if it did not support an ultra-Orthodox population of some 450,000 (6 percent of the total) whose men study all their lives and make babies who will aspire to study all their lives. Lacking those traits, however, their country would not be Israel.