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August 2011, Week 1

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Quarter Million Israelis March for Economic Reform

(Three Takes)

[Video: Voices from Israel's July 14 Movement
http://tinyurl.com/3fwzmn4]

More Than 300,000 Demonstrate Across Israel to Protest
High Cost of Living

    Protesters chant 'The people demand social
    justice'; protests occur from Kiryat Shmona in
    the north to Eilat in the south.

By Ilan Lior , Yanir Yagna and Haaretz
Haaretz (Israel)
August 6, 2011

http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/more-than-300-000-demonstrate-across-israel-to-protest-high-cost-of-living-1.377295

More than 300,000 people took part in demonstrations
across Israel on Saturday night to protest the high
cost of living.

The biggest demonstration took place in Tel Aviv where
around 300,000 people marched from Habima Square, near
the tent city on Rothschild Boulevard, to the Kirya
defense compund on Kaplan Street.

Protesters chanted "The people demand social justice"
and "An entire generation demands a future".

A number of signs that were hung on Kaplan Street read
"Resign, Egypt is here".

"Young people of Israel, our time has come," said
National Student Union Chairman Itzik Shmuli at the Tel
Aviv rally.

This marked the third consecutive week a rally has been
held in Tel Aviv.

More than 20,000 people took part in the protest in
Jerusalem. Demonstrators marched toward Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu's residence.

Smaller demonstrations occurred in numerous towns
throughout the country, including Kiryat Shmona (3,000
protesters), Hod Hasharon (1,000 protesters), Modi'in
(5,000 protesters), Ashkelon (more than 500
protesters), Dimona (around 200 protesters) and Eilat
(1,000 protesters).

Around 1,000 protesters blocked the Shomrim Junction in
the Jezreel Valley. The rally was held under the
slogan, "The northern periphery is awakening".

Police closed Kaplan Street in Tel Aviv off to traffic
early on Saturday in anticipation of the rally, and
will only reopen the main avenue at 4:00 A.M. on
Sunday. Several other major roads in the central part
of the city were blocked during the demonstration.

More on this topic

    Israel protest leaders prepare for third weekend of
    mass rallies

    http://tinyurl.com/3tx9q5d

________________________________

Quarter-Million Israelis March for Economic Reform

MSNBC August 6, 2011

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/44046352#.Tj2o7WG3Kso

TEL AVIV

A quarter-million Israelis marched on Saturday for
lower living costs in an escalating protest that has
catapulted the economy onto the political agenda and
put pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu planned to name a cabinet-level team on
Sunday to address demands by the demonstrators, who in
under a month have swollen from a cluster of student
tent-squatters into a diffuse, countrywide mobilization
of Israel's burdened middle class.

Israel projects growth of 4.8 percent this year at a
time of economic stagnation in many Western countries,
and has relatively low unemployment of 5.7 percent. But
business cartels and wage disparities have kept many
citizens from feeling the benefit.

"The People Demand Social Justice" read one of the
march banners, which mostly eschewed partisan anti-
government messages while confronting Netanyahu's free-
market doctrines.

Police said at least 250,000 people took part in
Saturday's march in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and other
cities, a greater turnout than at marches on the two
previous weekends.

Demonstrations on such a scale in Israel -- population
7.7 million -- have usually been over issues of war and
peace.

In a "Peace Index" poll conducted by two Israeli
academics, around half of respondents said wage
disparities -- among the widest of OECD countries --
should be the government's priority, while 18 percent
cited the dearth of affordable housing.

Some 31 percent cited the stalled Middle East peace
talks, Israel's international image, or the need to
bolster the armed forces.

The demonstrations have upstaged Netanyahu's standoff
with the Palestinians ahead of their bid to lobby for
U.N. recognition of statehood next month. Protests also
deflated his celebration of Israel's stability as
citizen revolts rock surrounding Arab states across the
Middle East and North Africa.

"There has been nothing like this for decades -- all
these people coming together, taking to the streets,
demanding change. It's a revolution," said Baroch Oren,
a 33-year-old protest leader.

The conservative coalition government has vowed to free
up more state-owned land for development, build more
low-rent housing and improve public transport. It also
wants to lower dairy prices with more imports and boost
medical staff numbers to address demands by striking
doctors.

But the demands submitted by the National Union of
Israeli Students go much further in calling for an
expansion of free education and bigger government
housing budgets.

Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon, named by a
Netanyahu spokesman as a likely member of the cabinet
troubleshooting team, said a solution was required even
if it "cost billions" at a time when Israel is watching
the debt jitters of the United States and parts of
Europe. Israel's debt burden is 75 percent of GDP,
lower than that of most major Western economies.

Interviewed by Israel Radio on Friday, Kahlon floated
tax cuts and a breakup of cartels to benefit the middle
class.

"If anything, this demonstration is a demonstration of
trust in Netanyahu -- though that may sound upside-
down: 'Sir, we demand of you, we insist, you know how
to, you are capable of fixing this,'" Kahlon said,
noting the lack of support for the centrist political
opposition.

But he faulted Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval
Steinitz for trumpeting Israel's macroeconomic
indicators.

"On the one hand we say we have a strong economy, on
the other hand large groups of people are seeing that
it is not reaching them. Hence the frustration and the
outcry," he said.

Copyright 2011 Thomson Reuters

______________

250,000 Israelis protest high cost of living

By IAN DEITCH
Associated Press
August 6, 2011

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/44045462#.Tj2LFWG3Kso

JERUSALEM

Angry over the ever increasing cost of living, Israelis
poured en masse into the streets of major cities
Saturday night in a big show of force by the protest
movement that is sweeping the country and proving to be
a real challenge to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's
government.

Thousands of mostly middle class Israelis marched
through the streets in central Tel Aviv waving flags,
beating drums and chanting: "Social justice for the
people."

Some held signs reading "People before profits," "Rent
is not a luxury," and "Israel is too dear." In
Jerusalem, protesters gathered outside Netanyahu's
residence.

Demonstrations began last month with a few tents set up
in an expensive part of Tel Aviv to protest real estate
prices. They quickly spread and tent encampments have
sprouted up in other city centers. The movement further
expanded as protesters later joined in over a wide
range of economic issues.

Young parents are protesting high child rearing bills,
doctors are striking due to strenuous work conditions,
teachers are marching over restrictive work contracts
and others are in the streets over low salaries, ever
increasing gas prices and food costs.

The popular demonstrations have snowballed into the
biggest internal challenge yet for Netanyahu and his
government. Polls released last week show his approval
ratings have dropped while support for the protesters
is high. Netanyahu has announced a series of
bureaucratic reforms including freeing up land for
construction and offering tax breaks.

But the reforms have only increased anger in the
streets with protesters complaining the measures would
have no real affect on them.

"The prime minister hasn't told us anything," said Stav
Shafir, one of the protest leaders. "We are going to
keep protesting, we want solutions, we want real
willingness by the government to work with the people
and answer our demands, until then we will be here."

Roni Sofer, an aide to Netanyahu, said the prime
minister "understands the severity of the problems and
believes there are serious solutions, but actions need
to be taken responsibly."

Sofer said Netanyahu is appointing a team of ministers
on Sunday "to provide a working plan by September."

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said it was too early
to know how many were protesting an hour after they
began Saturday night. Israeli media showed streets
packed with people. A similar protest last weekend drew
an estimated crowd of 150,000 nationwide.

Many observers viewed Saturday night's protest as a
test to see if it was gaining momentum or fizzling out.

The protests appear to be inspired in part by unrest in
neighboring Arab countries.

The country has one of the highest poverty rates and
income gaps in the developed world, and prices for
homes, food and fuel have risen in recent months.

For middle class Israelis, the high cost of living
makes owning property impractical if not virtually
impossible and causes many working Israelis to live in
debt from paycheck to paycheck.

The average Israeli salary is about $2,500 per month
while teachers and social workers typically earn less
than $2,000 a month. Rent on a modest three bedroom
apartment in central Jerusalem can cost upward of
$1,500 per month and more in Tel Aviv.

A standard, 1,000-square-foot (100-square-meter)
apartment can easily top $600,000 in modest middle
class neighborhoods in metropolitan centers like Tel
Aviv and Jerusalem, and $200,000 to $300,000 in second-
tier areas.

Critics have pointed out that the young protest leaders
appear to be unfocused and unorganized but this past
week they joined ranks and spelled out their demands.
The list includes affordable housing, reduction of high
Value Added Tax rates, free day care for children,
smaller classrooms, raising salaries for health care
workers and other benefits.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Pres

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