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More than 300,000 Israelis protest against high living costs
More than 250,000 Israelis take part in a massive rally to protest against high cost of living, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Aug. 6, 2011. (Xinhua/Yin Dongxun)
TEL AVIV, Israel, Aug. 7 (Xinhua) — More than 300,000 Israelis took to the streets across the country Saturday night to protest against high living costs.
Some estimated 200,000 people flooded the streets of Tel Aviv, the country’s business hub, chanting “the people demand social justice,” and holding signs calling for cabinet members to resign.
This is the largest rally since hundreds of young Israelis set up a tent city at the northern end of Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard last month to show their anger over unaffordable housing.
The tent protests have quickly spread to other cities, and evolved into a popular outcry against the spiraling cost of living. The protests have encompassed a host of grievances over soaring housing costs, prices of basic foodstuffs, child-care costs and gasoline taxes. Over 100,000 people participated in the demonstration Saturday.
Also, the country’s doctors, specialists, and medical residents have been leading an on-and-off campaign of their own for the past six months, calling for higher wages and better working conditions.
The protest, which was launched on Facebook nearly three weeks ago, is being led primarily by middle-class Israelis, disgruntled with what they perceive as a gradual erosion of their economic standing.
Noga, a female protester in her 50s, told Xinhua that they are not particularly against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, but want to reshape Israeli society, in which the rich enjoy life while the middle class shoulders nearly all responsibility.
“The country needs to take care of its people, there should be some steps taken to break the monopoly,” she said.
Sources close to Netanyahu told local media earlier this week that the prime minister is formulating a major social welfare plan, which he reportedly said will “change the face of the country.”
The plan includes legislation aimed at breaking cartels, enabling more market competition, and cutting indirect taxes.
Despite a recent dive in his approval ratings, Netanyahu does not view the protest that is sweeping the country as a danger to his coalition government, saying he plans to tackle the problems head on.