Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s associates have been consistently trying to dissipate the tent protests and weaken public support for them. His aides have recently been issuing statements aimed at undermining protest leaders and extricating Netanyahu from the harsh public criticism swirling around him.
When the tents first appeared on Rothschild Boulevard, right wingers called it a political, leftist project against Netanyahu. It does not reflect real social protest, they said, citing as proof the involvement of the New Israel Fund and National Left Movement.
But this argument fell through once the protest spread to the periphery and rightist activists joined in.
When the attempt to brand the protesters as leftists failed, Netanyahu’s people tried to portray them as spoiled youngsters. Head of the appointed committee running Lod, Meir Nitzan, was sent to the tent camp to ask the demonstrators to move to his city, 10 minutes by bus from Tel Aviv.
But these attempts also failed, derailed by the existence of protests in Jerusalem, Be’er Sheva and Kiryat Shmona.
Another spin consisted of spreading speculations that Netanyahu wanted to fire Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and appoint the popular minister Moshe Kahlon instead of him. This was seen as a way of blaming Steinitz for the economic protests, but a few hours later Netanyahu shot it down, announcing he had no intention of firing his colleague.
Finally, Netanyahu presented his economic plan to improve the situation, promising the students numerous benefits and advantages. They said they were happy with these achievements, but would continue taking part in the protest.
Last night, the Finance Ministry said the protesters’ demands could total NIS 60 billion, which the government could not allocate. This latest gambit is intended to portray the protesters demands as unreasonable.
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