Israel Catches Protest Fever, 300,000 March in Tel Aviv

By Yaira Yasmin
August 7, 2011

TEL AVIV, Israel—Driven by calls for housing reform, protests started by a small group setting up tents in Tel Aviv last month, grew into a mass march of 300,000 people on Saturday.

Pleas for affordable housing and lower costs of living, have now engulfed the nation, and created a platform for a variety of grievances. Many groups have now joined the movement including secular Jews, Arabs, and student movements.

The three weeks of continuous protests are largest in Tel Aviv, but have also sprouted up in other cities, added growing pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Cabinet.

“We are aware of the fact that working couples with children are finding it difficult to finish the month. We recognize the plight of students who cannot pay their rent. We are aware of the distress of the residents of neighborhoods, of discharged soldiers, and others,” said Netanyahu in an address at the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday.

While acknowledging the protesters’ “genuine distress,” Netanyahu says he will refrain from any short-term solutions, and is instead seeking “genuine solutions.” But protesters say the intentions the prime minister has offered fall far short of their demands.

A committee set up by Netanyahu on Sunday, consisting of government ministers and leading economic experts, is now tasked with forming a dialog with the protesters, proposing plans for economic reform. Recommendations are expected to be ready in a month.

“We will really listen both to the distress and to the proposals for solutions,” Netanyahu said.

However, warning of economic uncertainty Netanyahu said, “We will be unable to please everybody. One cannot please everybody.”

Israel’s defense forces already expressed concerns on Sunday over the possibility of its defense budget being cut as a result of the protests, according to the Jerusalem Post.

Demonstrators say they intend to stay in their tent camp and stage mass demonstrations until there is a solution. The Aug. 6, demonstration doubled the number of demonstrators from last Saturday, raising expectations of more large-scale gatherings in coming weeks.

“They told me this thing is bigger than me. They were right—it is bigger than all of us. My mother told me that she is worried that we will not succeed so hear this mother I promise you that we will,” said Daphni Leef, the freelance filmmaker who first called for the protests, speaking at the rally on Saturday.

With additional reporting by Jasper Fakkert.

Source: The Epoch Times.
Link: http://www.theepochtimes.com/n2/world/israel-catches-protest-fever-300000-march-in-tel-aviv-60067.html.

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