Saturday, September 3, 2011

A Milestone For Israel's Protest Movement

Tonight, about 450,000 Israelis protested the cost of living in Israel, nearly 300,000 of them in downtown Tel Aviv. While not the million that protest organizers had been advertising, the numbers are formidable and illustrate that the protest movement's momentum has not slowed down, even in the wake of the Eilat terror attacks August 18th.

The protests are one of many different pressures which the Israeli government is facing this September. A UN General Assembly vote on a Palestinian State will be highly politicized in Israel, as will today's news that Turkey will try to
refer Israel's blockade of Gaza to the Hague. In addition, the Durban III conference, widely expected to be antagonistic to Israel, will be held September 22nd.

The key challenge for the protest organizers will be to maintain political pressure and momentum through the opening of the Knesset's winter session in early October (unless an emergency session is called prior). The legislature, currently on summer recess, will likely take up the protests given their extremely high political salience. However, if the protests die down, it will be easier for political leaders to focus more on the multitude of other political issues first, translating to less political leverage for the protest movement.

The protests have shown formidable sticking power and tonight's protest is be an important milestone towards that which the protesters seek. However, the movement's political capital will have to be leveraged in the Knesset once the new session opens in order for the movement to effect concrete political change. However, even if the movement fails to reach this goal, it has created irreversible social change whose effects are likely to be farther reaching than any political settlement.

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