‘Yellow vests’ aim to shape election narrative

Two times in as many weeks, hundreds of demonstrators in Tel Aviv donned yellow vests to oppose increases in the price of electricity, water and food, as well as to dismantle the power of monopolies.

By
December 25, 2018 18:40
2 minute read.
"Yellow vest" protests in Tel Aviv.

"Yellow vest" protests in Tel Aviv. . (photo credit: KOBI RICHTER/TPS)

 
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For many citizens, the value of what they have in their wallet will be one of the key issues driving their decision at the ballot box on April 9.

Whereas education policies mostly appeal to parents, absorption issues are primarily relevant to recent immigrants and public transportation pledges appeal most to those without private vehicles, the strength of the economy affects all voters and, accordingly, is a constant battlefield in an election campaign.

Inspired by recent demonstrations across France and other major European cities, and hoping to take advantage of recent domestic momentum, the country’s very own “yellow vest” protest organizers are aiming to shape the election narrative that will accompany the citizenry until they head to the polls.

“Our goal is to make the high cost of living and the reasons behind it, which is the lack of competition in key Israeli markets, the main issue in these elections,” Guy Globerman, leader of the Israel 2050 movement and the yellow vests campaign, told The Jerusalem Post.

Two times in as many weeks, hundreds of demonstrators in Tel Aviv donned yellow vests to oppose increases in the price of electricity, water and food, as well as to dismantle the power of monopolies.

Organizers have been eager to emphasize that the demonstration is a civic initiative and not associated with any political party or funding. Only by building a strong grassroots movement, Globerman said, can the public gain political power to influence decision-makers in a similar vein to the power held by major domestic corporations.

“Our main goal is for the politicians to act,” said Globerman. “Don’t just talk about security and corruption in the election campaign, but that life is expensive in Israel. It’s not about right wing or left wing, it’s about high prices.”

Since launching the campaign, protest organizers have targeted expected price increases concerning food, electricity, water and municipal taxes. On Monday, they hailed a “public achievement” after the Electricity Authority announced it would be raising prices on January 1 by approximately 2.9%, rather than its originally planned 8% increase.


Some bread products, with prices supervised by the state, are still expected to increase in price by 3.4%. Cheese, chicken and toiletries are also due to become more expensive. According to the Economy Ministry, food prices here are today approximately 19% higher than the OECD average.

Water rates are also due to increase 4.5% in January and municipality taxes for households and businesses will be subject to an automatic annual increase.

“Unlike in France, the yellow vests in Israel are not taking to the streets for the sake of fighting,” said Globerman. “We really want to change the structural problems in our economy while it is strong.”

While protests have already managed to bring hundreds onto the streets and garner considerable media attention in recent weeks, organizers say it has proved difficult to convince the public that they have the power to change the situation, especially after the little that changed following mass social justice protests in 2011.

As a result, they will now be focusing on building awareness and utilizing their digital platform to build support for exacting change.

“We need to bring back hope for the Israeli people, particularly for young adults, that things can change and that the possibility to do so is in their hands,” Globerman said.

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