Social Protest Doesn't Spare Netanyahu's Facebook Page

Businesswoman's comments on middle-class economic distress hit a nerve.

When Tali Oz-Albo, founder and owner of an Internet marketing business, posted on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Facebook page last Wednesday, she never expected it to turn viral.

The post, which started with the words "Hi Bibi, I'm the little citizen," continued with criticism of the new taxes and spending cuts. In particular, Oz-Albo criticized Netanyahu's own explanation of why he is increasing taxes. ("There is no free lunch." ) Her post gathered over 30,000 Likes, 2,000 comments and hundreds of shares.

Oz-Albo, from Nahariya, said she wrote the post to the prime minister from the depths of her heart, and it never occurred to her that it would make waves. But she has been overwhelmed with responses, telephone calls and e-mails in the past few days from people she has never met but who wanted to express their support, she said.

In response, Oz-Albo opened a Facebook group called: "The little citizen is forced to pay big time." As of Sunday, the group had over 500 members. "People shared their life stories with me, wrote me that they felt as I do, that they are desperate," she said. "We must think of a creative way to reawaken the social protest."

'I needed to respond'

Oz-Albo, 38, is married to Golan and they have two children, ages 10-and-a-half and three-and-a-half.

Her Facebook post to Netanyahu was written in a cynical tone: "I wanted to tell you that from the day I finished my military service (about 18 years ago ) and served my duty to the state with love, I simply sit doing nothing, waiting everyday for one in the afternoon. Why? Because I know that then you will knock on the door and I will open it, and you will serve me my free lunch!

"I don't pay a fortune for my kids' education (the Free Education Law, no? ). I didn't build a business in the State of Israel and pay taxes from here to Honolulu. I didn't pay for my university degrees by working in three jobs at the same time (since, what can you do, my parents couldn't afford to pay for me, they are poor ), I don't work too hard every month to pay the rent with my husband and raise our kids. And hey, we don't live in the center of Tel Aviv. We live in the periphery called Nahariya," she wrote Netanyahu.

Oz-Albo told the prime minister she wrote the post in the middle of a particularly busy day, juggling between telephone calls from customers and taking care of her kids who wanted her attention and were home for summer vacation.

"Despite the mess, I felt I had to respond, and in the midst of all the noise I sat for seven minutes and wrote the letter," she said.

"The phrase 'no free lunch' was outrageous," she said. Oz-Albo called Netanyahu's statement patronizing and it provoked her. His claims that he had implemented the recommendations of the Trajtenberg committee on socioeconomic reform were untrue and in fact he has done nothing, she said.

"While ministers are upgrading their cars, the present decision to raise taxes shows in reality that he [has nothing but] scorn for the middle class, that they don't count," she said.

As she expected, she did not receive a reply from Netanyahu. "They have nothing to say to me," she said. They are waiting for people to give up and for it all to be forgotten, she added. "No doubt he sees me as just another girl who's crying, and it'll pass."

'I feel poor'

"My husband and I together together NIS 16,000 a month on average, and that is not enough for anything. That is why we have a permanent overdraft of NIS 15,000 in our bank account. And who profits from this overdraft and interest we pay on it? The bank, of course, and that is why the situation is just getting worse and worse - the overdraft grows and we can't see the end," she told TheMarker.

Once people couldn't finish the month, she said, noting how people's salaries ran out and couldn't meet expenses by month's end. But now, she said, people can't even start the month.

"After they finish their credit line at the bank, they will take loans. With an income of NIS 16,000 a month, we are classified as middle class. ... I am not poor, but I feel poor because I can't get anywhere. My survival every month depends on not exceeding my credit at the bank," said Oz-Albo.

Her monthly expenses include NIS 4,200 a month in rent for a five-room apartment, in which she uses one room as an office. She says the family has no savings and their parents can't help out. Just now she needed NIS 900 for her son's school books for next year.

"We have reached the situation," she said, "where people who want to stand on their own, who went off to study and hoped to create a better future, can't succeed and advance."