What’s Next for Israel After the ‘March of the Million’

Decisions will no longer be made in only Jerusalem, MKs and ministers will have to take the country's citizens into consideration.

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The March of the Million has succeeded. The entire social protest has succeeded greatly. It changed the public agenda and proved to the government that the public is not willing to take everything lying down. It turns out that people are not willing to make do with a ballot every four years, but rather that people intend to intervene along the way in government decisions.

This is a revolutionary political change, because politics is the force that runs budgetary allocations. No longer are decisions made in Jerusalem alone, and no longer are MKs and ministers sole players. Now they have to take the tents and the protests throughout the country, that is, its citizens, into consideration.

Mass demonstrations in Israel's social protest movement.Credit: Daniel Bar-On

The social protest also managed to change prices. Without it, no one would have ever dreamed of cutting the profit margins of the powerful fuel companies or the price of cottage cheese. The Super-Sol supermarket chain would not have promised discounts of 20 percent, nor would the dairy concern Tnuva have increased its packaging by 20 percent. And this all happened before the convening of the Trajtenberg committee on socioeconomic change.

But today, after the success of the March of the Million, the protest has come to a crossroads. Should it demand all or nothing as protest leader Daphni Leef insists, or should it go the practical way espoused by National Student Union chairman Itzik Shmuli and demand a change in priorities in a number of important realms?

Should there be a "change of the economic system," and an attempt to force Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to completely reverse his approach, as Leef wants, or should the existing market economy continue, with changes made to find the proper balance, as Shmuli has put it?

And should the Trajtenberg committee be boycotted, deemed, as Leef put it, "cynical, cruel and knowingly misleading" or should a dialogue be created with the committee, influencing it so it emerges with recommendations "that will provide real change," as Shmuli believes?

It is the dilemma between those who want revolution and those who want evolution.

Leef wants a "different economy" without going into detail. But the moment one opposes privatization, free competition and free enterprise, and wants big government that imposes much greater taxes, the direction is clear.

That direction also emerges from the eight-page document of demands composed by Leef and her associates, containing dozens of clauses, enough to make one's head spin. Here are just a few: The state should provide everyone with affordable housing, free education from the end of maternity leave to the end of high school; it should build more classrooms and hire more teachers, to reduce average class size to that of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 21 children per class; there should be more hospital beds, medical equipment, police and firefighters to bring standards in Israel up to the OECD level; maternity leave should be extended to six months, etc.

I also want standards in Israel to be equal to those of the OECD. But unfortunately, that is impossible. We are poorer than Europe, we work less and spend more on security.

Shmuli understands this well. That is why he is not setting impossible goals. He understands that a free-market economy is the best system, but he wants to change some elements in it. He wants the government to set new priorities within the budget and therefore he objects to the long list drawn up by Leef and her associates. Neither is Shmuli boycotting Trajtenberg. They will be meeting this week, and it appears that if any two people can close a deal, they can.



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