Protesters will be pitted against global turmoil

Avi Temkin

The turmoil in the world's stock exchanges will give politicians and their subordinate commentators an argument to disperse the demonstrations.

The conditioned reflex of the Israeli media suggests that, in the coming days, we will see less interest in the tent protest on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv and the social revolt as the media turns its attention one street over to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) on Ahad Ha'am Street.

Not only that, but the turmoil in the world's stock exchanges will give politicians and their subordinate commentators an argument to disperse the demonstrations, fold the tents, silence the protests, and resume watching their favorite reality shows on TV. This is supposed to be the supreme expression of "national responsibility".

Since we're talking about Israel, a place where different issues rise and fall from the headlines with extraordinary speed, we can assume that the protest will be buried in the press as a daily media kvetch. There will be plenty of articles analyzing the "rise and fall of the tent protest", and politicians like Shas chairman Minister of Interior Eli Yishai and Israel Beiteinu chairman Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Lieberman will quickly revert to their routines.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will again wear his magic economic cape, marketing his well-known slogans.

But will Israel really return to routine, or is the routine of just a few weeks ago gone forever, and no financial crisis can bring it back?

The answer lies in the economic events of the past decade. Israel has already gone through two economic crises in this time. The first began in 2001 and lasted three years, during which per capita income fell 8%. Statistically, the people who paid the price were the middle class. That is the first source of the current protest. In other words, the fall in income was strongly focused on the low and middle income-earners.

The same thing happened on a smaller scale in the second economic crisis of 2008-09. The possibility of a new recession will actually arouse these same classes who joined the current protest to ask who will pay the price this time; who will pay the cost of the recovery; and what needs to be done to prevent a return to the policies of the previous two crises.

If it is necessary to bet on the direction of the current social rebellion, one should think about the rising demands for what is called social justice.

Analyses that will tell the people on Rothschild Boulevard that what is happening on Ahad Ha'am Street will affect them are pointless. In many countries around the industrialized world, the middle class is feeling threatened and is angry. For years, the financial elites and the industrialists in these countries promised their middle classes that if they supported liberalization, regulation, and lower taxes, growth would trickle down to them too.

Another financial crisis will only convince the middle classes that they have been betrayed, abandoned, and trampled. In this sense, Israel is no exception. What is happening on the streets of Israel has deep roots, and the sense that the social contract has been violated will not go away, even if the newspaper headlines think that the issue is no longer worthy of discussion.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - - on August 11, 2011

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2011

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