Israelis Near Lebanon Protest Lack of State Funding: 'We Believe Nasrallah, Not Bibi'

Residents of towns like Kiryat Shmona say they have ‘no health care services, no employment and no quality of life.’

Israelis from the north protesting a lack of state funding, Metula, August 28, 2016.
Noa Shpigel

A few dozen Galilee residents have set up tents in Metula near the Lebanese border to protest the government’s failure to deliver on its promise to earmark 18 billion shekels ($4.7 billion) in the state budget for the region.

Kiryat Shmona City Councilman Yoram Malul said the protest’s proximity to Lebanon was no coincidence.

“We believe Nasrallah and not Bibi,” he said, referring to Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “Out of 18 billion that was promised, zero has reached the north, zero has reached the Galilee.”

Malul said the struggle was mainly for the Galilee panhandle at the northern tip where Kiryat Shmona and Metula lie.

“There’s nothing in the city,” Malul said, referring to Kiryat Shmona. “No health care services, no employment and no quality of life, and we want Israel to understand that it’s not our interest, it’s the state’s interest that we be strong.”

He later added: “It doesn’t matter how many planes and tanks the country has, in the end the spirit of the soldiers is what counts. And the spirit of the residents here is low.”

Malul accused Netanyahu of being “prime minister of Likud, not the whole country from Metula to Eilat,” adding that local-government leaders in the region “have to lead, not hide behind our backs.”

Israelis from the north protesting a lack of state funding, Metula, August 29, 2016.
Noa Shpigel

Nissan Zeevi of the community organization Shinui Kivun (Change of Direction) said the region needed “driving forces for growth,” adding that Interior Minister Arye Dery “knows very well how to repeat that term by heart, but now is the time to apply it.”

High-tech companies go no farther north than Yokne’am in the Jezreel Valley because incentives there are the same as in Kiryat Shmona in the far north, Zeevi said.

“All the finance minister has to do is change it,” he said, adding that the  Galilee development plan was worked on for two years and “was shelved in one night.” Zeevi said Netanyahu has been prime minister for nine years and Kiryat Shmona still had no proper health care. “We’ll pay him back at the ballot box,” he said.

Dr. Ayelet Shavit of Tel Hai Academic College and a member of Kibbutz Kfar Giladi addressed the protesters, who included students from the college.

“There are young people here and I want to continue following these young people. The time has come for everyone here to understand how much strength we have,” she said.

“And if we dare to dream higher every morning we’ll reach much higher, because you can’t move ahead without dreaming. Israel was built on people’s dreams, and today we’re the ones dreaming.”

Last week, hundreds of residents of the north held a rally at Koah Junction in the Upper Galilee, blocking the road to protest the lack of development funds.