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Issues of the Day The Commitment to Social Justice is the Israeli Norm

The lead story in Haaretz yesterday was not about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s one-day visit to Israel, where he apparently got along warmly with Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Rather, an article headlined “Sixty-Nine Percent of Israelis Support Renewed Protests,” described the results of a Haaretz-Dialog poll  taken on Monday night.


The survey’s findings indicate that  most Israelis identify with the citizens movement that swept the country last summer and which has resumed at the start of the Summer of 2012.

The  discontent is about Israel’s high cost of living, the gap between the rich and the rest of the population, and inaccessibility to affordable housing and other needs. It seems to me that disenchantment with the chicanery of our politicians along with the aloofness of the government from the aspirations of the citizens feeds the support Israelis express for the social protest movement.

My deep belief is that social democracy is an integral part of the Israeli ethos. The commitment to social justice and an open society is the Israeli norm.


The Netanyahu government is dedicated to the notion that left to themselves market forces foster economic growth, which presumably advances the society. What Israelis have realized is that while economic growth has benefited a privileged few, the system does not share this growth with the producers of the country’s wealth – the citizens working as bank tellers, teachers, physicians, small business owners, bus drivers, assembly line workers and all the others who power the system.

It is clear to me that despite the Prime Minister Netanyahu’s huge coalition, the people of Israel feel increasingly alienated from the government’s domestic policies. The current round of citizens protests are likely to provide considerable discomfiture to the ruling establishment this summer.  



Changes and the Other Privileged



The same population that supports the economy also shoulders responsibility for Israel’s security. In addition to the economically privileged, the prevailing political constellation maintaining Israel’s governing coalition provides for another form of privilege, one that exempts Haredim and Israeli Arabs from military obligations.


Unevenness in shouldering the security burder is the object of ongoing protest at the so-called “Fools Camp” of military reservists at Tel Aviv’s Savidor transportation hub, where they have encamped to demonstrate against this injustice (see picture above right). Most Israelis identify with their protest.


A promising sign that Israeli Arabs are willing to engage in Sherut Leumi (National Service), an alternative to military service was reported in an article appearing today. Meirav Arlosoroff describes that 2400 Israeli Arabs are now engaged in this program, an increase of 60% from 2010 and a tenfold rise from 2005. This, despite attempts by Arab political leaders to discourage the trend.  


It seems that Israelis, Jews and Arabs, are no longer willing to follow their leaders blindly. 

© Yosef Gotlieb, . All rights reserved