Cottage cheese, Facebook and a political void in Israel

As the “Arab Spring” swept the Middle East in the early part of 2011, Israelis prided themselves on their democracy. Life may be frantic. Hamas, Hizbollah and Iran may pose real dangers. However, the economy is growing at 4%. Unemployment is at a record low. Loads of people are booking holidays overseas.

All was well in the Holy Land…….that is until the diary companies tried to raise the price of cottage cheese one more time. This prompted an irate young adult to launch a Facebook campaign, encouraging a boycott of one of the staple products for most Israelis. Within two weeks, the manufacturers had capitulated; the Knesset (Parliament) had debated the issue; an intergovernmental committee set up new guidelines for the farming industry.

Not a bad result for a 30 minutes work to set up a page on Marc Z’s favourite site.

Within a month, a similar tactic had resulted in tent cities being erected all over the country. This time the core subject is housing and the burden of taxes. The Middle Classes are revolting and the politicians have no clue why. Proposed solutions are being rejected on the spot by the demonstators, many of who are ordinary mothers with prams at their side.

In a country with an open press, what the devil did 120 members of the Knesset miss?

1) How many of them do their own weekly shopping? The stats may reveal true economic progress, but the  ordinary person is suffering in the supermarket.

The price of food in Israel has risen 31 percent since 2005, while in the European Union it rose by about 20% in the same period.

That is massive. Meanwhile, farmers are protected by high tariffs. There is little competition amongst mobile phone providers. The consumer is being ripped off, as the politician is chomping at his free lunches and chatting with cronies. Arrogance rules OK?

2) Earlier this week, in light  of the wave of protests, the Speaker of the Knesset discussed if the Parliament should cancel its summer recess. It lasts for nearly three months. Fortunately, for our 120 heroes, the threat was rescinded and they can go on the trips…. while their voters suffer. The Speaker informed the public that he felt that the government should deal with the problems.

3) And this is my final point. Israel’s voting system is based on strict proportional representation. There are no constituencies. And thus no politician is answerable to 7.7 million people.

Any wonder that protesters have taken to Facebook to get themselves heard?

Explore posts in the same categories: Business, Israel

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