While confidence in Netanyahu’s government drops, consumer prices rise

By David E. Kaplan

At last Saturday night’s demonstration against the governments judicial reform in Kfar Saba, a friend of mine, defying the deafening din, blasted profoundly in my ear:

You know, never in my wildest dreams did I ever believe when I was protesting as a 20-year-old medical student in South Africa that I would be protesting as a doctor in my seventies.”

Five decades later and in another country, and we feel we are back where we started. To get seventy-year-olds and older out every Saturday night standing for hours, listening to speeches repeating what we all know and agree, bellowing “Busha” (shame) repeatedly while holding aloft the Israeli flag and then walking home saying farewells to friends, “Same place, same time next week,” then clearly, to paraphrase the Great Bard:

 “Something is rotten in the State of Israel”.

Saturday Night Fever. A typical Saturday night at city square Kfar Saba with protestors. People tend to stand in same areas meeting the same people each week.

Much of the country knows it, including those brave enough in the Likud at admit it. In my recent article ‘IS THERE EVEN JUST ONE?I asked:

 “Where is the one in Netanyahu’s coalition who is going to finally stand up and say – “enough”?”

Well, maybe cracks are appearing.

Has now the proverbial ‘penny dropped’ – the shekel has – with Likud MK David Bitan’s headline admission in the news? Using the platform of Israel Bar Association’s 12th annual conference, Bitan in his address to Israel’s legal fraternity, admitted that his governing coalition had made a mistake with the judicial reform adding that his government was failing to give sufficient attention to other important issues unrelated to judicial reform – like the soaring cost of living! He alludes that he is not alone by revealing that  “There are [other] members in the Likud who think so too.” Seemingly unafraid – unlike his colleagues –  he publicly admits that his Likud party:

 “….was harmed by this move, and it will continue to be harmed if we don’t reach broad agreements.”

Bitan was clearly seeing what most his political bedfellows were failing see or as the astute 16th century saying goes:

There are none so blind as those who will not see.”

If the coalition pursued its judicial reform legislation warned Bitan, “credit rating companies would follow up on their threats and drop Israel’s rating.”

It was happening.

No Age Limit. Afar cry the writer recalls from the protests in South Africa against Apartheid where the average age was below twenty. Looking around at the protests in Kfar Saba, the average age appears to be 55 and over.

While affirming Israel’s rating in April at A1, Moody’s in July then warned Israel that continuing judicial overhaul legislation would have negative consequences on Israel’s economy. Ever since the judicial reform was presented, credit rating companies have warned that the situation would lead to a downgrade in ratings and hardly unexpected, at the end of July, Morgan Stanley did lower Israel’s rating.

Clearly, Israel’s government is battling with the basics. As Bitan continued in his Bar Association address, the government is failing to give sufficient attention to other important issues that are not related to the reform.

As Israel’s government struggles with bulldozing forward on judicial ‘reforms’ – a misnomer if ever there was one –  consumers struggle with rising prices.

We could be dealing with a lot of things at the same time,” Bitan continued. “The cost of living needs to be dealt with. It’s not just on the government, but the government needs to change directions. It’s not doing its part. The responsibility is ours, and we need to give attention to the rest of the issues outside of the reform. Unfortunately, only some of us are working in other fields.”

What an admission by this Likud MK and what a shocking indictment against the government in which he serves.

David Denounced. Likud MK David Bitan in the Knesset. What he had to say at the recent Israel Bar Association’s 12th annual conference did not please his Likud colleagues, who were quick to respond that it did not represent the party’s position.

Since Netanyahu returned to the premiership at the beginning of 2023, prices in Israel have only continued to rise. Despite campaign promises to address the high cost of living, most of the prime minister’s focus in 2023 has been on passing sweeping judicial reforms, something hardly addressed during the campaign. Although  inflation and the rising cost-of-living were Likud campaign promises, once in government, it relegated these issues to a low priority, subordinate to the judicial overhaul. The result – as confidence in the government has plummeted, consumer prices rise.

Commensurate with Netanyahu government’s failure to grapple with reality, more and more regular Israelis are failing to grapple with their financial situation. Struggling to make ends meet, Sharona Bat Haim, a cleaner and single mother of two girls, told The Jerusalem Post’s Media Line that:

I have no money and prices keep going up. I don’t know how I will cope. I will probably have to stop buying meat for my other daughter, but I don’t want to discriminate.”

Tapping into this cry from the people, opposition leader, Yair Lapid said at a recent protest, “Milk, fruits and vegetables, meat—all the prices are going up. We will come back to power, and we will lower the prices.”

In the first quarter of 2023, foreign investment dropped by 60%. This is according to a Treasury report revealed by Israel’s chief economist on Wednesday.  The preliminary data paints a troubling picture of a steep drop in foreign investment transactions, totaling approximately $6.2 billion. Comparing with the quarterly averages in previous years, the data represents a “HEFTY PLUMMET”.

Is this not a sufficient sobering confirmation of the dire warnings for months by esteemed economists against the government’s controversial judicial overhaul?

Israel needs to recalibrate its priorities. Sadly, the Likud has distanced itself from its lamenting MK David Bitan refuting his public utterances at the Israel Bar Association as “not the position held by the party.”

Warned and Ignored. Rating agency Moody’s warned in July on the negative consequences of the government’s judicial reform for Israel’s economy.

Considering the destructive makeup of the governing coalition and the ‘March of Folly” its leading this country, what is needed is  YES – a pressing overhaul – but not of the judiciary but of Israel’s present political leadership!

This is why seventy-year-olds like every other age of participating protestors across Israel, will continue to block off their calander’s Saturday nights for the foreseeable future.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).


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