Over 250,000 Israelis hit the streets Saturday in a continuation of massive protests against the high cost of housing, education and food staples. What began with one young woman putting up a tent on Tel Aviv’s fashionable Rothchild Avenue to protest the high cost of living, then blossomed into ‘tent cities’ in Tel Aviv and 0ther cities, has grown into a protest movement including middle class families, retirees and students. Haaretz reports that Prime Minister Netanyahu chewed out Likud cabinet members and other officials for not helping to develop a solution to the crisis.
Protesters span the left and right and insist on staying away from politics. They rejected PM Netanyahu’s offers of subsidies to students and do not accept ‘settlements’ in the West Bank as a resolution. They also reject moving to poor suburbs of the cities which cannot provide jobs, transportation or a modern infrastructure to their residents.
The growing gap between rich and the middle class and poor also drive the ‘housing protests.’
Like the Arab autocrats, PM Netanyahu and his government seem taken by surprise at the outpouring of domestic discontent. While the protests don’t include expansion of settlement activity in Palestinian areas of the West Bank, the refusal of the demonstrators to consider the settlements as a solution to their problem presents a long-term problem for the Israel government.
Netanyahu is caught in a vise of international pressure on a state for Palestine and unprecedented pressure from ordinary Israeli citizens over domestic issues. Stay tuned.