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Shinui’s Middle Class Revolt

27 January 2003

By Yisrael Ne’eman

The inanities of the Labor campaign have been discussed extensively in these columns as have been the accusations of corruption and their lack of effect on the Likud which appears on its way to win Tuesday’s elections.  Although there have been discussions concerning Shinui, it is time for a closer look.

For the first time in its history the country is facing an across the boards middle class revolt.  A different reformist party Dash, was established in 1977, and it is here Shinui has its roots.  In those days the party attracted reform minded Laborites disgusted with corruption and government mismanagement and polled 15 seats.  As we know, the Likud formed the government, Dash joined and crumbled within four years. 

This time the middle class revolt is not only from the left but from the right and even among the modern orthodox.  Although Tommy Lapid’s Shinui discusses foreign policy and defense, everyone knows the real agenda is domestic.  Simply put, people are completely fed up with too much taxes, too much monies thrown out on useless and dangerous settlement attempts by self proclaimed divinely inspired types, too much ultra-orthodox yeshiva funding, too many young people not being drafted (both ultra-orthodox and plain old shirkers) and too much aggravation.

The middle class understands only too well Israel’s security issues since they send their kids to the army and they continue to do reserve duty.  It is not considered an excuse for the multiple dysfunctions suffered by Israeli society especially when issues of education and government initiated building and infrastructure projects are lagging and have little to do with the Palestinians.

The middle class demands a true political unity and not one just for political convenience.  They demand tough decision making and implementation concerning security, separation from, and possibly conflict resolution with the Palestinians.  But even more so the middle class wants equality of obligation and privilege for all, not only in security matters but on economic issues.

Shinui may even get more mandates than the hapless Labor party, who still refuses to consider joining a national unity government after the elections.  Some people are even speaking of Lapid picking up 18 seats.

But before everyone gets too excited let’s remember reform is not only needed concerning allocations to the ultra – orthodox, in certain settlement priorities or in getting people back to work.  The very upper crust of Israeli society needs to be called to order and their interests in the stock market and especially the banks, need to be regulated or we may wake up one morning to an oligarchy no one wanted.

To be successful, Shinui needs to take on this challenge no less than the others.