A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, July 25, 2011

Israeli Spring?

Although it's tempting to draw parallels,. there are obviously vast differences between the wave of protests building in Israel in the last few days and the waves of protest sweeping the Arab world. After all, there are people camped out in tents, crowds of protesters blocking highways and streets, chants demanding the leader step down, tensions between religious and secular . . . oh, wait, those are the similarities.

Although Israel has a democratic electoral process inside the Green Line, there is a great deal of frustration over the economy and the government's unresponsiveness, and it has spilled over into the streets. It all has nothing to do with the peace process or the Palestinians, and everything to do with the economy. The main thrust of the protests is over housing, There are tent cities throughout Israel demanding more housing at affordable prices. although some protesters reportedly charge that haredi or ultra-religious Jews are getting most new housing, some haredim have joined the protests themselves. Prime Minister Netanyahu has now canceled a trip to Poland, presumably due to the protests.

Adding to the issue is the fact that a longstanding protests by doctors over low pay during residency has now been turned into  a general strike by doctors.

The protests are essentially a middle class revolt,  but they could seriously undermine what many have taken to be a government that could not lose its majority to one where disillusionment with Netanyahu could weaken his previously seemingly unassailable position, even calling into some question of his leadership of his own party.YNet is quoting "a senior Likud Minister," unidentified but said to be previously known as loyal, as blaming Netanyahu for the problems.

Over the history of Israeli politics, more coalitions have come apart over domestic issues than over foreign policy.

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