Israelis again protest en masse for 'social justice'

Sunday, August 07, 2011 |  Ryan Jones

An estimated 300,000 Israelis took to the streets at various locations across the country on Saturday evening to demand what they called "social justice."

With an estimated 200,000 gathering in Tel Aviv alone, the event dwarfed a similar nationwide rally held a week earlier that drew the participation of up to 150,000 Israelis.

The massive rallies are in response to the rapidly rising cost of living in Israel, which is not being met by increasing salaries.

Key points touched on by the protestors are the astronomical prices of apartments in central Israel, rising food costs, the need for families to pay for expensive day cares and out-of-control gas prices.

The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has readily admitted that a cost of living crisis exists in Israel, and is eager to find a solution.

On Sunday, Netanyahu formed a team consisting of about half of his cabinet minsiters to examine the situation and present solid recommendations for moving within one month.

Already, Netanyahu has passed land reform laws that will decrease the bureaucratic process required to build housing projects and eventually bring down the prices of apartments.

But unfortunately, the demonstrations themselves have become highly politicized, with most of the protest leaders insisting the only solution is for Netanyahu's government to be brought down. Opposition politicians have excitedly joined the movements in hopes that it will catapult them back into power.

It is because of that reason that even Israel's liberal left-wing media is starting to strongly criticize the "social justice" movement.

Many media commentators have reminded the demonstrators that Israel's previous left-wing governments did far less than Netanyahu to address these issues, and that it must not be about regime change, but about solving complex economic problems.

Instead, most protest leaders appear ready to maintain their position that Netanyahu must leave, and that Israel must become even more of a welfare state than it is.

Meanwhile, leading economists, including highly-acclaimed Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer, have confirmed that Netanyahu is taking a solid course of action, and that the solution is not to hand out free housing, but to cut taxes and increase market competition.

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