And yet these manipulators are able to gain an audience only because a large section of Israel’s population, with much justification, feels the burden being placed on them is impossible. Skilled and educated professionals are expected to work for salaries a mere fraction of those earned by their contemporaries in other developed countries. At the same time, food and consumer goods prices in Israel are among the highest in the West. Apartment prices, too, have reached a point where purchasing a property has become a distant dream for many young couples.
This population is not a crowd of freeloaders. Rather, they are the patriotic and responsible young individuals and families on whose commitment the survival and flourishing of Israel depends.
They are the young medical resident who works unimaginable hours for a tiny salary, week after week, interspersed by long stretches of army reserve duty. They are the clinical psychologist, who spends her weekends volunteering at a special project to help children in the north still traumatized by missile attacks in the Second Lebanon War. These are two examples of people I know. And there are many thousands more like them.
There is no danger that this public will follow the likes of Ilani and Green for very long or accept their radical stances on other issues. But the need to address these subjects remains vital. Israel’s educated, socially responsible middle class is the country’s backbone. They must be able to raise families, pursue their professions with dignity, and have a decent standard of living.
Dismissing the issue, or ignoring it, is an option for which the country will pay dearly some way down the line. Israel’s past successes were ultimately based on the existence of a mobilized, committed public, with a feeling of belonging to a national community. This sense did not derive from sentiment alone, but also from socio-economic facts: a relatively narrow social gap, fair compensation, a sense of burdens shared with at least some modicum of fairness.
Many Israelis have concluded, based on experience, that these conditions have considerably weakened them. Israelis don’t like being taken for suckers and the country’s leaders should remember this.