Housing press conference 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Watching Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s press conference announcing his
emergency package to deal with the housing crisis, and at the same time watching
the protesters on Rothschild Boulevard on a second screen, one thing was clear:
Netanyahu has failed to fully understand and internalize what they are
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The tent-city dwellers reacted to his speech with silent contempt,
and in the sign language that has governed debates on the boulevard over the
past 10 days, they signalled their disagreement.
Protest leaders accused
Netanyahu of employing a policy of “divide and rule.” Even the students who
stand to gain the most from the measures said they would stay on
Netanyahu has failed to understand, as we wrote earlier this week,
that these protests are about a lot more than housing.
He has failed to
understand that the protesters and much of the public – according to a poll
yesterday, support for the protests stands at 87 percent – have had enough of
struggling to make ends meet, and he has failed to understand that they have
reached a breaking point; they want a change in the agenda and a leadership
committed to a change in priorities.
Said protest founder Daphni Leef,
“The people of Israel went out on to the streets because of the housing crisis,
but it will stay on the streets because of all the rest, and it will stay on the
streets until there is a solution to the social crisis. Bibi, give us social
While the measures announced Tuesday by Netanyahu are of course
a welcome effort to reduce housing prices – although they are flawed by a lack
of overall vision and fraught with problems, particularly the failure to use the
crisis as an opportunity for urban regeneration rather than expanding urban
sprawl – his failure to address, even in intent, the doctors strike and other
pressing issues shows that he just doesn’t get it.
The prime minister was
right in saying that a liberal economy doesn’t have to clash with social
justice; all he has to do now is deliver. Otherwise the protests that we have
seen up till now will be just a drop in the ocean.