Israeli politics since 1967 have largely revolved around foreign policy and security. But the gap between incomes and costs as well as the left’s attempt to find some winning issues and the deadlock in the “peace process” have produced a new protest movement complaining about high housing prices that is sweeping Israel.
What is the cause and meaning of this movement?
The protests’ key organizers have clearly political motives, despite the fact that the New York Times claims, “So far, the protesters have managed to remain apolitical.” In fact, the individuals and organizations animating this protest are committed to a left-wing political agenda intended to weaken, embarrass, and, if possible, topple Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.
Nevertheless, it is equally true that an authentic cross section of Israelis protest in response to genuinely urgent issues. The first fact should not become an excuse to ignore that reality.
That demonstration leaders and organizers indeed have a political agenda is easy to spot. Many have clear affiliations indicating their hostility both to the current government and to mainstream Israeli positions. Funding is coming from the New Israel Fund and its operational group, Shatil.
Yehudit Ilani, for example, a leader of the protests in Jaffa, is an Israeli-Jewish member of the hardline, Arab nationalist party Balad, which openly supports dismantling Jewish statehood and the ‘”right of return” of Palestinian refugees, that is, Israel’s destruction. The party’s original leader, Azmi Bishara, fled Israel after coming under suspicion of spying for Hizballah and is now openly backing that group from exile. One of its elected members, Haneen Zoabi, supports a nuclear Iran.
Dafni Leef, another protest leader, is an employee of the New Israel Fund. Alon Lee Green, another of the most prominent organizers, is a member of Hadash, the Israeli Communist Party. And so on.
Their motive in promoting social protest is highly political. The Israeli public long ago rejected their positions on the key national issues facing the country, thus consigning them to political irrelevance. They hope social issues will gain them re-admission to the debate. As Dimi Reider, a far-left activist and journalist, explained it:
We have been protesting against the occupation for decades and the number of our support keeps dropping. If we want to reach out to a broad section of the population, we need, at least temporarily, to put the occupation aside.