Yesterday’s protest was interesting and important – it goes beyond summer silliness which is what it could have turned out to be, but what does it bode for Israel’s future?
Like anything coming out of such a large (but perhaps not so diverse) group the message is anything but cohesive, but some things are cause for concern, and others, hope.
The repeated loud messages of hate and blame against the Chareidim and the settlers have been particularly worrisome. That some leftwing activisists felt it was OK to burn down the tents of some of those on they disagreed with ideologically only strengthens that concern.
That the common message seems to be “social justice” (socialism, communism, redistribution of income, government subsidies etc.) scares me tremendously. We have a vibrant and healthy capitalistic economy, and socialism is not the solution to the specific problem we are facing.
The real problem is not the actual cost of an apartment (really, how many 20 year olds do you know can afford to buy an apartment after college, or don’t rent with 2 flatmates?). The real problem is that the overall cost of living keeps going up, while salaries don’t seem to match the pace and taxes eat away at what you have. I know my family feels it as do those of many of my friends.
And the cost of living is going up, in my opinion, for artificial or at least fixable reasons.
Food costs far more than it did a few years ago. There is no reason that cars cost twice as much as they do in the US. Taxes are far too high for the lower end of the middle class – creating a working poor. Don’t get me started on gas prices. VAT adds an unbearable burden on both companies (required to collect and file regular VAT reports even when they have no direct VAT liabilities) and on individuals where it artificially inflates prices by 16%! Rent prices are going up too, and that is because the government stopped building in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem, as well as the unbearably slow bureaucracy that new construction projects must first go through long before a project will ever reach the consumer.
But the solution to these problems is not socialism, its more capitalism.
Open up the market to more imports.
In America, when you go into a kosher food store you have a tremendous choice of kosher products to choose from (and I’m including cheeses and meats – of excellent quality), both local and from Israel, yet here in Israel it’s always the same Israeli companies over and over again.
Reduce the bureaucracies involved in opening and running a company in Israel. Let’s create a State of Delaware in Israel for companies and watch the market flourish with small businesses. Make importing easier.
Lower these horribly high taxes. Who needs 16% VAT on top of our high income tax and Bituach Leumi? If people could only spend more, they’d buy more.
Why does a car cost twice as much as in the US – taxes – that is the only reason.
Free up land for construction. Reduce the bureaucracy to new construction. Let us build again in J.J.&S.
These are all basic steps, simple steps even, that would fix the problems in our economy. Giving out apartments is not the answer, freeing up the economy from these artificial road blocks is.
While there are those in the background driving these protests with the hopes of overthrowing Netanyahu, or through ideological hate, or through a philosophy of socialism and entitlement, my hope is that the majority who showed up are people like you and me. Concerned by the real rising cost of living – an artificial problem that can be nipped in the bud.
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