Protests against high costs put pressure on Israel PM

JERUSALEM Sat Jul 30, 2011 5:14pm EDT

1 of 3. Israeli activists march in Jerusalem as they take part in a protest against rising property prices in Israel July 30, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Ronen Zvulun

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JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of Israelis took to the streets Saturday to protest against the high cost of living and demand Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu undertake sweeping economic reforms.

Police said over 60,000 people demonstrated in Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem, Beersheba and six other cities, in what local media have dubbed Israel's middle class uprising.

"People before profit" read a banner held by protesters who chanted "The people demand social justice."

"This is the Israeli spring" one sign read, referring to the uprisings which have rocked the Arab world.

The protests started two weeks ago when activists pitched tents along a Tel Aviv avenue, demanding lower rent and land prices. Demonstrations have since spread nationwide, and housing reforms announced by Netanyahu Tuesday have not helped quell the unrest.

Although commentators see no threat to Netanyahu's ruling coalition, the demonstrations are proving a major political headache for the Israeli leader, halfway through his term in office. His approval rating fell to 32 percent in a recent poll.

Economic growth in Israel is among the fastest in the world, with a 5 percent spurt seen for 2011. Unemployment was at a two-decade low of 5.7 percent in May.

But analysts say the high price of basic goods and services are weighing down the middle class which already bears Israel's heavy tax burden and sustains its conscript military.

Cabinet secretary Zvi Hauser told Channel 10 news Netanyahu would examine cuts to indirect taxes but "there were no quick solutions" to the complex problems which were causing protesters to take to the streets.

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Comments (1)
drmorocco wrote:
Oh my God:

The middle class in Israel is suffering? America what will we do? I suggest that we write Senators Lieberman, Schumer and Blumemthal to increase our aid to Israel. I really do not care that Americans are losing their homes, are homeless or hungry this is Israel we are talking about.

First thing that Israel should is just expel any non Israelies from land that was provided to them by God. Then the US should provide enought aid to build nice homes for all those in need. We should pass a 3 or 4% Federal Tax on food to pay for all of this. The poor in the US is happy for the opportunity.

Jul 31, 2011 7:05pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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