Israel social protest.
Mass demonstrations in Israel's social protest movement. Photo by Daniel Bar-On
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A familiar group of social activists is forming a new political party, with an eye to changing Israel's socioeconomic agenda from inside the Knesset.

Three of the most prominent figures in the endeavor are Gad Haran, head of the Ami social protest organization; Jackie Edry, a leader of the battles against raising water fees and on behalf of contract workers; and Ze'ev Grauer, one of the heads of the cost-of-living protest. Grauer is also involved in the protest against high gasoline prices in Israel.

Activists from their organizations and many grassroots social protest groups have joined with some of the movers and shakers behind last summer's "tent protest" in Haifa, Netanya, Kiryat Shmona and Be'er Sheva. They convened recently at the Beit Dani community center in Tel Aviv's Hatikva neighborhood and voted in a founding council for what they hope will be a new social-welfare coalition.

"We decided to look into the possibility of creating a joint political party that will contest the next Knesset election, in order to gauge the extent of public support for such a move," said Haran, who is leading the initiative. He emphasized that the social activists have no intention at this stage of joining any of the established parties. But he confirmed, without naming names, the existence of communications with parties that were represented in the Knesset in the past. Haran also declined to say whether there have been any contacts with the nascent party of media figure Yair Lapid.

According to Haran, funding for the new initiative is coming from the activists themselves. "We don't dine at the tables of the various foundations," he stressed, adding, "We hope that if the general direction suits other people they will join us."

"As long as the Knesset and the cabinet do not include people with a social orientation and a fighting spirit, the State of Israel will continue to slide down the slope of widening social gaps and the loss of the middle class' belief in its ability to support itself in dignity," the activists wrote in a press release.

Haran, 57, is the former chairman of Yedid, the Association for Community Empowerment, and today the chairman of Ami (an acronym for the organization's Hebrew name, Future for the State of Israel ). One of the leaders of last month's large demonstration against gasoline price hikes, he is managing director of the D.G.S. management and consulting agency and manager of Gad Haran Development, an energy consulting firm. Until last month he was project manager of Mekorot's desalination plant in Ashdod.

"Last summer proved that the real Israel exists outside of the political cynicism," Haran said. "By way of proof one can look at how the leaders of the various protests set aside their egos and came together to form a united front with a plan, an organization and a clear message," he says.

Activists are currently working on a party platform, suggestions for which can be posted on the Facebook page for the social coalition movement.