Labor MK Itzik Shmuly.
(photo credit: KNESSET)
The best response to the rising cost of living is not to move to Berlin, it is to fight the government’s economic policies from within Israel, MK Itzik Shmuli said Sunday.
Shmuli (Labor) has 10,000 objections to the budget, focused on making life better for young people, which he plans to submit when the Knesset’s winter session begins in two weeks.
“Ten thousand is a crazy number, but there is no choice. We have to stop this budget somehow,” Shmuli said. “We have to try to reduce the harm to young couples and recently discharged soldiers.”
The MK worked with university students and other volunteers to compile the objections, which he plans to submit to the Knesset Finance Committee, where they will be brought to a vote as part of the budget proceedings.
Shmuli hopes that some of the objections will be adopted and the budget will be changed, because, although the coalition has a majority, some of its MKs consider themselves social-minded and may accept his suggestions.
“Even if the coalition passes the budget, we want to neutralize it as much as possible,” Shmuli explained.
“Finance Minister [Yair Lapid] called this ‘a budget of hope,’ but for young people, that’s a joke, a fraud. You can’t embrace soldiers during Operation Protective Edge and then cut the benefits they get for working after they leave the army, and also make it harder for them to get unemployment payments. If Lapid is saying the young generation is collapsing [under the high cost of living], then why is he freezing the long school day program and canceling housing projects?” Shmuli continued.
According to Shmuli, “Lapid’s numbers and words don’t match up. That’s what we’re attacking.”
As for the “Milky Protest,” in which expats are encouraging other Israelis to leave the country because of the high cost of living, Shmuli, who as chairman of the National Union of Israeli Students in 2011 paid a pivotal role in that summer’s social protests, said “the diagnosis of the problem is correct, but the solution they suggest is, of course, unacceptable.”
“I don’t think the solution is, as this guy from Berlin says, to leave the country. We can’t give up; we have to fight for our future in our country,” he said.
The Labor MK called for the government to “look in the mirror and ask itself what it’s doing to prevent this phenomenon.”
Shmuli sees the budget as an opportunity to force the government to address the needs of the people, accusing Lapid and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of ignoring them and passing a budget based on political wrangling and egotism.
“People are leaving the country even though they love it and served it, because even though they followed the correct path of army and college and work, they weren’t able to build a life,” he said. “We’re not talking about getting rich. They just want to buy a house and build a family like normal people. That basic, simple dream is impossible for so many young people today. Therefore, we need to get up and do something.”
Shmuli did not want to predict whether the Milky-inspired protest will grow into a mass demonstration movement like the one in 2011, but admitted that not much has changed since then and that prices for housing, food, electricity and other things have gone up.
“The government changed, but the ideology didn’t,” he said.
Since 2011, Shmuli said, the only change is that “Lapid took off his black T-shirt and put on a jacket.
“Lapid is the same as Netanyahu. He successfully sold himself as someone who supports the social protest but turned out to be right-wing economically. He’s the contractor for Netanyahu’s policies,” he said.