Israeli Protesters March against Netanyahu

There have been suggestions that the Israeli protest demonstrations for affordable housing and lower prices sprang up spontaneously over legitimate grievances three weeks ago – only to be hijacked by alien interests.
This week, the Bank of Israel, the treasury and economic experts calculated that satisfying all the protesters' demand would make Israel a Scandinavian-style welfare state, but the $40 billion annual bill, one-third of the state budget, could not be covered by revenue. It could come from only one source, drastic cuts in the national defense budget.
It was partly this calculation that planted in the minds of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his close advisers the suggestion that to advance the secret agenda of stripping down Israel's defense assets, external elements were keeping social disaffection on the boil and groups of protesters proliferating.
Netanyahu has laid out a multi-part strategy for calming the unrest, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's sources in Jerusalem report.
First, he is seriously addressing the foremost grievances put forward by the main group of protesters ensconced in tents in the center of Tel Aviv, with smaller satellites in other towns. He has put task forces of experts to work on fast solutions to address complaints about the shortage of affordable housing and spiraling prices of food and other essential commodities.
Second, he has instructed the police to go easy on the demonstrators and leave them be so long as they are not violent, don't block main arteries or trespass on public and government buildings.
As for the tent city pulsing with youthful energy on the Rothschild Blvd, in the heart of the national financial and banking district of Tel Aviv, the prime minister said: "Let them sit in tents for as long as they want."


After the revolution, the government will obey the street


An Israeli tycoon, owner of a controlling share of a bank received this message loud and clear when he visited the Tel Aviv encampment to hear the protesters' arguments.
He left when he saw their young leaders wholly committed to revolution. He was given to understand that the tent-dwellers would form the "revolutionary council" and force the government to obey the dictates of the street.
Third, young right-wing, religious and settler groups, including Likud members, university students and people living in Judea and Samaria, tried to set up their tents on Rothschild Blvd. to voice the same grievances on over-priced housing and living costs.
"On social issues we are all left-wingers," they said, only to be violently hounded out of the encampment.
Netanyahu has been trying to set up a logistical center to support members of his constituency and so counter-balance the backing in slogans, placards and flags provided the protesters by the left-of-center opposition parties of Kadima, Labor and Meretz.


Ron Werber: Self-styled political campaign strategist


Fourth, the prime minister is keenly watching the work with the protesters of Ron Werber, the self-styled "senior political campaign strategist, especially in Europe."
Werber has a mixed record in Israel and other countries. In 2008, he managed an unsuccessful run for mayor of Tel Aviv on behalf of the communist politician Dov Henin.
Fourteen years earlier, in 1994, he helped Haim Ramon, then a Labor politician, get elected as Chairman of the Histadrut Labor Federation. Ramon has since moved on and is currently chairman of the opposition Kadima party.
Then, in 1996, Werber was to be found on an American PR team a few months after helping Boris Yeltsin's reelection as Russian president. The Washington-backed campaign for Yeltsin, with all its political and clandestine undertones, was immortalized in the 2003 movie "Spinning Boris."
This little-known episode is worth recalling because the man who headed the Yeltsin campaign at the time was the Russian diplomat Mikhail Margelov, who has risen to eminence as Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Federation Council of Russia and special Presidential envoy for mediating the Libyan, Sudanese and Syrian conflicts as well as Moscow's point man with Israel and the Palestinians.


Netanyahu plans to appoint his own American political adviser


This international PR strategist, who says he is acting independently in the cause of the tent-dwellers, appears to represent Kadima, whose leader Tzipi Livni habitually urges Netanyahu to remove himself from power.
Members of the Netanyahu circle look askance at the fact that Werber spends most of his professional life in East Europe – he likes to call it "Central and Eastern Europe." They suspect a possible hidden US-Russian hand behind the tent movement and a well-defined, shared agenda.
It appears that Washington and Moscow have instructed the political counselors at their Tel Aviv embassies to avoid meeting Likud officials and focus their attention on politicians opposed to Netanyahu and his would-be challengers to determine their political and security platforms if they came to power.
The two counselors are quoted as referring to the prime minister in the past tense.
The prime minister plans to appoint an American political adviser as the counterweight to Ron Weber.
However, by Thursday, Aug. 4, the weekend momentum was in full spate with a plethora of street demonstrations up and down the country – some unrelated to the Rothschild Blvd. encampment, but all clamoring for "social justice."
Among them were dairy farmers who refuse to cut the prices of milk and its products, taxi drivers demanding tax cuts on gas, mothers pushing strollers for free nursery schools and longer maternity leave, high school kids with their parents and teachers calling for free education, factory workers and the list goes on and on…

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Font Resize
Contrast