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In response to the protest, Netanyahu, a free market champion and fiscal conservative, vowed to revamp the economy and lower living costs. Some of the government’s steps have eased the pain for the middle and lower classes.
But other measures are moving slowly or have had no major effect. With rising food and fuel prices, few feel significant change in the cost of living since the protest.
“It means that we were mistaken when, as a young generation, we thought we could avoid sitting in the places where we make the most important decisions,” said Stav Shaffir, 27, another of the movement’s leaders.
Shaffir is now eighth on Labour’s list. Polls show that like Shmuli, she will be a member of Israel’s next parliament, with her party winning about 16 to 20 of the 120 Knesset seats.
“There is something pure and beautiful about a popular protest,” Shaffir told a group of students in December. “But the change it brings comes only after generations … and we don’t have that time if we want to change policy.”
UNDER THE TANKS
Shaffir lives with four roommates in a Jaffa apartment. Shmuli moved to the run-down town of Lod last year to set up a student community outreach program. Both say they have no intention of changing their dwellings after becoming lawmakers.
At the protest’s peak, Shmuli addressed about half a million people at one of the biggest rallies ever held in Israel. He spoke to the cheering crowd about “The New Israelis”, who will fight for a better future and social equality.
But that was in September 2011. The question now is whether the “New Israelis” who cheered for Shmuli will turn up to vote for him.
The summer of 2011 marked one of the only times that social-economic issues consistently topped the agenda in a country whose population of 7.8 million is usually preoccupied with matters of war and peace.