Israel's Protest Movement Drafts Social Justice Covenant

Protest leaders join forces with business community and academia to put forward 'Israeli New Deal.'

The leaders of last summer's cost-of-living protest have joined forces with members of the business community and academia to put together a social justice covenant.

The document features two basic principles: the elimination of inequality and poverty and gradual increases in the state budget "to get the wheels of development moving for all the country's citizens."

Signatories include protest leader Stav Shaffir and Histadrut labor federation chief Ofer Eini, as well as professors Yossi Yonah and Avia Spivak, who have advised the protest movement.

The covenant calls for an improvement in living standards and the environment, and seeks upgraded public services. It proposes an increase in the government's share of gross domestic product, and greater "access to services [providing] health, education, housing, social welfare, personal safety and transportation." It also wants to eliminate gaps between the center of the country and outlying areas, and to greatly increase the public housing stock.

"[Last] summer's protest put key problems on the agenda such as the distribution of capital, earning a livelihood and social justice," said Uri Matoki of the umbrella group Forum for Social Justice.

"The protest included a lot of emotion and anger, but we thought we had to put something clear on the table - a document of demands that would include a proposal for fundamentally changing the system in Israel. So we drafted an appropriate agenda. Basically, we're proposing an Israeli New Deal based on clear principles," he added.

"We're demanding a different policy that takes into account the people, not just profits. We figured we'd enlist as many groups in the economy as possible, such as protesters, members of the political system, and first and foremost players in civil society."

The protesters hope to sign on more figures. The covenant is already backed by Rivka Chakutai, the daughter of former Sephardi Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, and Itai Gutler, who chairs the student union at Hebrew University.

The document also calls for an increase in direct taxes on high-income earners and corporations. It seeks a complete halt to the privatization of government services, a stop to the hiring of outsourced workers in the public sector, and lower prices for basic staples.