Benjamin Netanyahu.
Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo by Marc Israel Sellem
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At last, the social struggle in Israel has a chance, as the government cannot divert the public's attention with a peace process. There is no peace process. There's not even the appearance of one. At last, the social struggle in Israel has a chance because the movement's leaders are not the weakest, most downtrodden strata of society. They cannot be comfortably pigeonholed as radical leftists, anarchists, local activists or "not nice" Black Panthers, and thus - unfairly, of course - turned into the object of fear.

At last, the leaders of the struggle are the privileged classes, those known here as "the salt of the earth." Those living in the center of the country and making double or triple the minimum wage have suddenly discovered that they, too, cannot buy an apartment or afford to spend half their wages on rent. At last, the social struggle in Israel has a chance, because the privileged classes are themselves downtrodden. At long last, after a consistent process of wild privatization and successive Israeli governments shirking their responsibility to their own citizens, all classes have become downtrodden, and a cynical policy of "divide and rule" can no longer flourish.

At last, the social struggle in Israel has a chance because the Middle East is changing fast, and it's improbable that the winds of change will pass us by. Even if one takes the obvious differences into account, the rage of the masses against corruption, oppression, injustice and poverty has reached our shores as well. For once the social struggle in Israel has a chance because the various protests - from the social workers to the price of cottage cheese, from the doctors and medical interns to the anger over housing prices heard throughout the land - do not cancel each other out but rather come together in one voice.

At last, the social struggle in Israel has a chance because capitalist demagoguery here has gone bankrupt. The public has been told that after the collapse of Communism and Socialism, capitalism remains the only option. Even those who accept this faulty reasoning must admit that Israeli capitalism is pseudo-capitalism.

It's not true that the government does not interfere in the economy, and that it operates according to the rules of supply and demand, competition and a free market. First of all, true competition is impossible when 10 families hold sway over most of the market. Rather than American-style capitalism, this is more like a Russian-style oligarchy following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Secondly, as far as taking money from the citizens is concerned, the government is deeply involved; the taxes it levies on income and products are among the highest in the Western world. But when it comes to giving back, the government is uninvolved. The services it is supposed to provide in exchange for taxes (health, education, social benefits and reasonable housing ) are dying. If the ruling ideology of the pioneers was to give as much as possible and take as little as possible, then today's ruling ideology is its exact opposite, and it is seeping from the government and the owners of capital to the landlords and the price hikers, corrupting the entire public.

For once the social struggle in Israel has a chance, since the state now has substantial budget surpluses and huge foreign currency reserves, and the government cannot hide behind the usual argument of "I haven't got it." You have got it, and everything you've got is ours. For once the social struggle in Israel has a chance because Likud is panicking, and the prime minister is a man who succumbs to pressure. The pressure must not be eased. It should be intensified. Rarely does such an opportunity arise for making historic amends, and in such facilitating circumstances.

The State of Israel was founded on Rothschild Boulevard, and now, in that same place, 63 years later, a decisive battle for the state's character is taking place. This battle involves us all. Its failure will be sorely felt by future generations.