IS­RAEL ERUPTS

TENT CITY PROTESTS

The Jewish Chronicle - - Front Page - BY ANSHEL PF­EF­FER

PRIME MIN­IS­TER Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu has re­fused to meet per­son­ally with the lead­ers of the hous­ing protest, now into its fourth week of en­camp­ments and demon­stra­tions.

The prime min­is­ter tried to seize the ini­tia­tive this week af­ter be­ing caught off guard by the scale and per­se­ver­ance of the pro­test­ers.

Mean­while, cracks started to show within the protest’s lead­er­ship.

De­spite prom­ises to open ne­go­ti­a­tions with the lead­ers of the protest move­ment that has gal­vanised much of the Is­raeli mid­dle class, Mr Ne­tanyahu’s aides made it clear on Mon­day that he would not be meet­ing with them. “The pub­lic has to re­alise that he has a coun­try to run,” said an ad­viser at the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice, “and Bibi is deal­ing now with more se­ri­ous threats to Is­rael, as the UN vote on a Pales­tinian state is just around the cor­ner.”

In­stead, Mr Ne­tanyahu ap­pointed Fi­nance Min­is­ter Yu­val Steinitz to head a com­mit­tee of p o l i t i c i a n s , se­nior of­fi­cials and busi­ness­peo­ple who will meet the pro­test­ers to dis­cuss so­lu­tions to the hous­ing cri­sis and other f i n a n c i a l p r e s s u r e s on the mid­dle class. The prime min­is­ter has also en­cour- aged se­nior Likud fig­ures to crit­i­cise the pro­test­ers and their agenda in pub­lic. Min­is­ter of In­for­ma­tion and Di­as­pora Yuli Edel­stein said on Mon­day that among the pro­test­ers were “a group of an­ar­chists with con­nec­tions to the Com­mu­nist party, peo­ple with­out any con­nec­tion to re­al­ity and are not part of the wide Is­raeli con­sen­sus.”

David Amar, a prom­i­nent Likud mayor, said: “This isn’t a real protest, it’s peo­ple eat­ing sushi and smok­ing nargi­lahs. What right do they have to yell ‘Bibi go home’?” Mr Ne­tanyahu joined the fray on Wed­nes­day, say­ing that “a wave of pop­ulism is sweep­ing the land”.

While the agenda of the protests has so far been dic­tated by the lead­er­ship of the first and largest tent set­tle­ment, on Rothschild Boule­vard in Tel Aviv, pro­test­ers from other parts of the coun­try com­plained that they had been left out of the ne­go­ti­a­tions process. This meant that the pub­li­ca­tion of a list of de­mands had to be post­poned un­til a meet­ing on Tues­day of lead­ers from all the protest sites. A draft doc­u­ment in­cluded a wide range of re­forms, in­clud­ing the build­ing of pub­lic hous­ing, free kinder­garten for chil­dren from the age of three months, a higher min­i­mum wage and higher cor­po­rate and cap­i­tal gains taxes.

The gov­ern­ment has yet for­mally to ad­dress these de­mands and, de­spite the pro­test­ers’ op­po­si­tion, went ahead on Wed­nes­day with a Knes­set vote au­tho­ris­ing Mr Ne­tanyahu’s re­form of plan­ning pro­ce­dures. The pro­test­ers claim that the re­form will not bring house prices down or pro­vide pub­lic

A huge crowd protest­ing against gov­ern­ment so­cial pol­icy march on

PHOTO: DEMOTIX

On mes­sage: pro­tester makes his point

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