A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman
August 2 2011- Protest Movement Grows and Matures
The tent city of Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv has morphed into a nationwide protest movement. When the movement first began, many thought it was just about a group of spoiled Tel Aviv residents who want to remain living in the city, but pay rent as if they were living in the periphery. Despite nay sayers, the movement has continued to grow from week to week; with demonstrations through out the country last Saturday night.
Their unfocused slogans have been transformed into a clear set of demands, which, while in total, are probably unattainable, they could foreshadow a series changes in the economic direction of Israel. The group's major demand centers on stopping the continued practice of lowering income taxes for the more wealthy, and instead decreasing the level of indirect taxation such as VAT. They also are requesting a new, higher, millionaire tax bracket, to help pay for the higher social expenditure. Just ending next year's planned tax decreases would make 14 billion shekel available immediately for more social spending, or for decreasing direct taxes.
The demonstrators have been very smart not going after government spending in areas such as spending on the settlements, or on Haredim, like other protest movments have in the past. Thus making themselves easy political targets for the right or the religious. Instead the demonstrators have limited themselves to economic and taxation policy and the issues of crony capitalism. As a result, it has been nearly impossible to discredit them on political terms and they have managed to build support throughtout the society. Where this will goal lead is unclear. Over 70% of the public claim to support the demonstrators and an incredibly large 38% say these demonstrations will effect their vote in the next elections. Only time will tell.
Events in Syria continue to play themselves out, with Assad showing his true colors; a testament to how bloody he can be. By only being somewhat bloody he has not managed to regain control. Will the massacre of larger numbers of people do it? Will the world stand by?