Netanyahu Must Offer Israelis a Social New Deal

What Israel needs urgently is a sane, liberal social synthesis - not neoliberalism, not cryptocapitalism and not red socialism.

The young man in the green T-shirt standing on my right at the protest rally of the 30,000 said he was left-wing but a Zionist. He votes for Meretz. So why was he demonstrating? Because they screwed us over, prostituted us, turned us into slaves. The 18 families who control the Israeli economy are taking advantage of us, cheating us and making idiots out of us. They're sucking our blood using the banks, cellular companies and big supermarkets. They're brainwashing us with Channel 2.

Because of them we don't have normal salaries or lives, and we don't have money for an apartment. Because of them we don't have a house and we don't have a country. That's why the only solution is to take them on. To scale the tycoons' luxury skyscrapers and hang them from their towers with their feet up and heads down.

The young man in the green T-shirt did not represent the spirit of the 30,000-person protest and not the spirit of the tent protests. But his violent fury reminded me of the decade-old warning by Amir Peretz that one day the masses would rise up and storm the houses in Savyon and Herzliya Pituah. His violent fury was an extreme expression of the nonviolent fury now heard all over the country. This isn't just a question of housing or health care. It's a feeling of the straw that broke the camel's back. That Israeli capitalism has rotted and disappointed. That the people truly want social justice.

But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is deaf. Bibi doesn't understand. He's still a captive of Ronald Reagan's and Sheldon Adelson's worldview. That's why we have to speak to him using the same language that Bill Clinton used 20 years ago. It's not the Israel Lands Administration, stupid. It's not the bureaucracy, stupid. It's the exploitation. The exploitation has become inhuman and insufferable.

The exploitation is driving people crazy. That's why the young man in the green T-shirt speaks the way he does. That's why thousands are taking to the streets in anger. That's why dangerous populism is spreading all over the country like a summer brush fire. If the Israeli political system doesn't reform itself in a rational way, it will be hit with an irrational response. If Israelis are not offered a social New Deal, many of them will rebel against the leadership and system in a very ugly way. Israel may fall into a fatal spin.

The Israeli New Deal of the 21st century must have three dimensions. The first is for the new social contract to set limits for the free market. It must say in a determined way that education, health and welfare are not commercial products but fundamental rights. It must guarantee that the state provide every Israeli with a life of dignity that will not be privatized but strengthened. It must rebuild the Israeli welfare state.

The second dimension is to require the free market to be free. No longer a rule of monopolies, duopolies and triopolies. No longer cartels of take care of me and I'll lend to you, tell me and I'll tell you. If you're going to base everything on economic success, it has to be all the way. If you want a free market, it has to be a truly free market. The rich must be bound to the principle that the rich view holy: competition, competition and competition.

The third facet of the new social contract is to deal with the housing crisis immediately. Since the housing market failed dramatically, the state must intervene and guarantee the construction of about a quarter million new homes. But until this national building project is completed, the state must act in an exceptional and creative way appropriate for an emergency situation. It must tax the owners of hundreds of thousands of investment homes to encourage them to sell or rent them out cheaply. After Israel did so well by the real estate tycoons, it's now time for the real estate tycoons to do something good for the people. Homeowners must give up some of their profits for the good of the homeless.

What Israel needs urgently is a sane, liberal social synthesis - not neoliberalism, not cryptocapitalism and not red socialism. If Bibi doesn't understand this soon, he will be replaced quickly. This time it's not the media, stupid. This time it's the people. And the people are saying clearly that the place of the elite is not on the Israeli stretcher but carrying it. The people want social justice.