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Bread: Israelis versus the Sharon Government

02/13/2004

Ariel Sharon may be the number 1 bogeyman of the Arab world, but lately he is not too popular in Israel. Though chaos may reign in the Palestinian authority as disgruntled Fatah officials resign and rumors of yet more corruption surface, all is not tranquility and prosperity in Israel either. The onset of the Palestinian violence (so called "Intifada") and the world recession coincided to produce one of the worst economic crises in Israel's history.

The economic crisis was met at first by total indifference. Sharon considered it sufficient to blame the economy on the Intifada. Suicide bombings and IDF retaliation raids distracted the minds of most Israelis from the shrinking pocketbooks. However, after the appointment of former PM Benjamin Nethanyahu, the government policy changed to a war on poor people, rather than a war on poverty.








Bibi Nethanyahu enacted a program of feed the rich and starve the poor Reagonomics which has sent tens of thousands more to the unemployment offices. To remedy that problem, the government simply raised the criteria for entitlement to benefits. As an added boon, the government raised the price of bread. An article about the bread price hike in Ha'aretz online was accompanied by an advertisement for pizza. Perhaps it was unconscious irony, but it illustrates the growing gap between haves and have-nots, and the government indifference to social problems, as billions are poured into settlements, support for Yeshiva students and other favorite projects of the right.



Israelis are for the most part strangely quiet. True, the Histadruth Labor union went on strike and took "job actions" that incovenienced and victimized most Israelis. But these strikes only gained concessions for people who already have jobs and find that their pensions or salaries are threatened. In the good old days, a recession of this magnitude would've produced burning tires and fiery speeches, accusing the Mapai party of old of discriminating against non-European Jews and no end of demagoguery. But this recession is the fault of the Likud-Herut party, which posed, ironically enough, as a friend of the poor. Indeed, Sharon must love poor people, as he has made so many of them.

Israelis may not be protesting much, but we are certainly disgusted with the government. 79% said that the government treats poor people savagely in a recent poll. 51% said they didn't trust Sharon, and 61% have no faith in Nethanyahu. 73% said Israeli society is coming apart, and 81% do not believe Nethanyahu's ludicrous claim that the recession has ended.

Ami Isseroff


Friday Dahaf Poll 13 February 2004

Aaron Lerner Date: 13 February 2004

The following are the results of a poll of a representative sample of 500
adult Israelis (including Israeli Arabs) carried out by Dahaf for Yediot
Ahronot the week of 13 February 2004 for Yediot Ahronot. Statistical error
+/-
4.5 percentage points.

Is Ariel Sharon a trustworthy prime minister?
Yes 42% No 51%

Is Binyamin Netanyahu a trustworthy treasury minister?
Yes 34% No 61%

Netanyahu claims we are out of the recession. Do you agree with him?
Yes 18% No 81%

Do you agree with the claim that Israel is in a condition of economic
breakdown?
Yes 65% No 34%

Do you agree with the claim that Israeli society is breaking apart?
Yes 73% No 25%

Should the price of standard bread be increased?
No 84% Yes but smaller increase 9%
Increase OK 4% Increase more 0%

What impact do the policies of the government on social matters have on the
unity of Israeli society?
Strengthens 9% No impact 22% Weakens 68%

Does the policy of the government support the weak or treat them savagely?
Support 18% Savage 79%

Does Israeli society support the weak or is it savage to them?
Support 42% Savage 56%

Is Israeli society violent?
Yes 76% No 23%

To what extent do you feel part of Israeli society?
Greatly 47% Considerably 25%
Pretty little 16% Little or not at all 12%

Has you feeling towards Israeli society changed in the last two to three
years?
Belong more 25% No change 37%
Belong less 38%

Has there been a change in the feeling of solidarity and unity in Israeli
society in the last two to three years?
Strengthened 20% No change 7% Weakened 70%

The stock market went up a lot in the last year. Did you profit from it?
[IMRA: Much of the public has money in stocks via savings funds .]
Yes 5% No 93%

Do you follow what is happening in the stock market?
Yes 19% No 81%

What do you expect to happen to your economic situation in the coming year?
Worsen 31% No change 43% Improve 23%

--------------------------------------------
IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis
Website: www.imra.org.il

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