Israel’s media yesterday hailed the country’s swelling protest movement, saying the crowds that poured onto the streets overnight amounted to a “revolution” that the government can not ignore.
“A new country — Israel in the street,” announced the top-selling Yediot Aharonot, splashing its headline in the white and blue of the Israeli flag.
Its commentator Nahum Barnea played up the diversity and “positivity” of the more than 250,000 people who flooded cities across the Jewish state on Saturday night for “unprecedented” demonstrations.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Cabinet “won’t be able to ignore this outcry. Not because they believe that the outcry is justified, but because it reflects a force that threatens their continued hold on power,” he said.
In the left-leaning Haaretz, Gideon Levy compared the protest crowds to those which massed in Cairo’s Tahrir Square earlier this year to overthrow then-Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.
“Now the comparison to the Cairo revolution is not exaggerated or wishful thinking,” he wrote. “A regime that remains impassive to such gigantic rallies would be completely insensitive and in any case is destined to fall.”
The Yediot’s Sima Kadmon warned Netanyahu that he could no longer dismiss the protesters as fringe left-wingers.
“Hundreds of thousands marched. Not anarchists, not leftists, not sushi and hookahs, but the people of Israel. Regular Israelis,” she wrote. “Your people are demanding ... something big, something meaningful, something important.”
Nadav Eyal, writing in the Maariv daily, also stressed the protests could not be played down as “a dark, left-wing conspiracy.”
“Bibi,” he wrote, using Netanyahu’s nickname, “what you see is what it is. A demand for social justice. A desire to rewrite the Israeli contract.”
Eyal said Netanyahu was not the target of the demonstrators “for the time being,” but warned the right-wing leader that his political future could be at stake.
“Bibi, it’s your decision. Israel is demanding a New Deal,” he said, “if you can deliver, act and act now. If you can’t, then step aside and get out of the way.”
However, some commentators warned Israel risked economic disaster if it enacted the kind of sweeping and costly reforms that protesters are demanding.
“The protest is bubbling up everywhere, has burst out of every crack, has prompted hundreds of thousands of people to leave home in peak heat and humidity, to march on foot,” Ben Caspit wrote in the Maariv.
However, he warned that the continuing global economic crisis, and the downgrade of the US’ credit rating, holds real risks for the Israel economy.
“That’s why we need to keep things in check ... We mustn’t go on a rampage now and allow unbridled spending,” he wrote.
“Things need to be fixed, the direction the ship is sailing needs to be changed, and all that needs to be done responsibly, with a steady hand on the steering wheel and with moderation,” he said.
Meanwhile, the government yesterday formed a panel of government ministers and some of the country’s leading economic experts to draw up a plan to reduce the soaring cost of living, marking new efforts to defuse demonstrations over prices.
The special committee would present its recommendations within a month, Gidi Schmerling, a spokesman for Netanyahu, told Army Radio.