Comment: They just don’t get it

The protests are about a whole lot more than housing; Netanyahu has failed to fully understand and internalize this fact.

July 27, 2011 02:06
2 minute read.
Netanyahu. Steinitz, Attias unveil housing reform

Housing press conference 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)


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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 about.

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.

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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 board.

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 justice.”

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.

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