After 150,000 Israelis took to the streets on Saturday night in protest, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's spokesman Ronny Sofer says that the protesters' demands are overblown and Israel's social conditions are not so bad.
Sofer participated in Channel 10's morning current affairs program, which discussed the proliferating protests against the high cost of living. Although Sofer admitted, "There are segments of the population that suffer distress," he did not spare his criticism of the protesters. "We also raised children, and we had a very hard time. We chose our homes on the basis our means," he said.
In his perspective on Israel's socioeconomic conditions and the protest of the middle class, Sofer said, "We should put things in proportion. When you travel along the Ayalon Highway in the morning, you see something like 10,000 cars. You look around, and the only construction and building standards are luxury apartments. You see 1.3 million people heading abroad this summer. So things aren’t so bad."
As for the protesters' demands for "social justice", Sofer implied that they were communists who want equality for everyone. "Everyone wants to be equal, and they want to feel more equal; in other words, they want greater purchasing power. These things should be put in proportion. I'm afraid we're not a communist country. We don’t all have the same standard of living. Some people have more and some people have less."
Sofer said that Netanyahu was listening and denied that he was alienated. In the same breath, however, Sofer rushed to say, "He understands that there is a process that is growing stronger. A kind of exaggeration. But he is listening."
Sofer also compared the Israeli economy to the economies of countries such as Greece and the US. He said, "Gentlemen, Israel is in excellent economic shape. Leave it alone, let's talk about something greater. Do you know what’s happening in the US? In two days, it could be insolvent. If you act irresponsibly with the economy, you're liable to end up like Greece, which will become insolvent."
As for claims that many protesters cannot make ends meet, even with above average salaries, Sofer offered a solution. "There are people who claim that they can't make ends meet? ... Maybe their credit lines should be cancelled."
Sofer cited his own life to remonstrate against the protesters: don't live beyond your means, in utter insouciance of many of the protesters' demands.
"Talk to me. I want complete honesty," said Sofer. "The difficulties are tough. Raising a family today, enabling children to go to university, is not easy. When my kid - and she's 25 and a university student - comes to me and says, 'Daddy,' I do what I can to help her. But if she says, 'I want to live in Tel Aviv' I reply, how much does that cost? I can't help. If you manage to do it yourself, wonderful. Great. If not, lady, get a job, live somewhere you can afford."
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on July 31, 2011
© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2011