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Israel’s election had been set for late 2013 but the government failed to agree on a state budget, which it said would require harsh austerity steps.
Netanyahu called an early vote in what commentators said was an attempt by the prime minister and partners in his governing coalition to avoid the risk of going to the polls after imposing unpopular cuts.
Labour has focused its campaign almost entirely on social and economic issues, and its projected gains in parliament are largely attributed to the protest movement.
If Netanyahu, against the odds, chooses to include Labour in his next government, some of the movement’s demands will undoubtedly be part of that deal, said Yossi Yonah, a Labour candidate who has advised social protest leaders.
Labour chief Shelly Yachimovich, an advocate of a welfare state, has not ruled out serving in a Netanyahu administration. But the option seems remote given their opposing economic views.
Looking ahead to likely budget cuts after the election, Yonah predicted such steps could revive and bolster the protest movement, if it combines civil action on the streets with a combative parliamentary opposition to Netanyahu.
“The protest’s impact cannot be judged after only one year,” Yonah said. “Eventually something must give.”
Both Shaffir and Shmuli hope to draw young people who are disillusioned with politics to come vote.
“Our parents brought us up to believe that if we work hard, study and try then everything will be okay, we will succeed. But when we grew up, when we were released from the army, we looked around and this society we were told about was gone,” Shaffir said.
Instead, she said, they found corrupt politicians who were not looking out for young people’s interests.
The tents that Shaffir helped pitch are long gone and life has returned to normal on Rothschild Avenue, which is lined with banks, shops and cafes.
“We need to make politics sexy again,” Shaffir said, sitting on a bench on the trendy avenue filled with people walking their dogs and riding bicycles.