A U.S. embassy official says “egalitarian” Israel set an example for the US by its positive response to “social justice” protests.
American Embassy Economic Officer Dewitt Conklin recently told a panel discussion at the University of Haifa that both the protests and the quick government response were impressive. He added the Occupy Wall Street and similar protests in the United States were of a different nature.
“When I examined the claims of the economic protesters in Israel that prices were too high for households to bear, I saw that there was solid statistical evidence in support of this claim,” he told the panel. “The response of the Israeli government to last summer’s economic protests was striking. It quickly engaged with the issues raised by the protests and set up committees which provided detailed recommendations on how to address causes of high prices.”
The government recently implemented free pre-school education for children from the age of three and lowered custom duties on hundreds of products purchased through the Internet.
Conklin said the demonstrations caused him to think if similar demonstrations would occur in the United States. When they did, they were different, according to the embassy official.
The American protests were focused around the theme of “the 99 percent versus the 1 percent,” reflecting concerns about rising income inequality in the U.S. economy.
The economist said there is truth behind the charges. “In recent years, households in the top 1 percent income bracket have earned as much as the bottom 60 percent, and held as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent,” he explained.
Unlike the situation in Israel, Conklin maintained that Americans’ problem go beyond high prices.
“The main issue in the Israeli protests was the problem of the high cost of living relative to income, while in the U.S. the issue was a broader structural issue of a substantial decrease in middle income jobs,” according to Conklin.
Concerning the Israeli government’s response, he said, “I think the willingness of the government to act quickly to try to re-balance the economic equation comes, in part, from the egalitarian roots present at the creation of the State of Israel.”