AFP
Last updated: 12 August, 2011

Israeli protest leaders urge Saturday demonstrations

The leaders of a social protest movement that has rocked Israel for a month called on demonstrators to “get out of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem” to bolster demonstrations Saturday in a dozen other cities.

Israel has gripped since mid-July by a rapidly growing protest movement demanding cheaper housing, education and health care.

“We want to strengthen the movement in the periphery, where those who have pitched tents in protest are still few, so we have made a call to leave Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to take part in rallies in twelve cities,” said Stav Shafir, a protest leader.

“The main gathering will be held in Beersheba in the south, but there will also be events in Haifa (Israel’s third-largest city), Netanya, Afula, Beit Shean, Eilat and Dimona,” she said.

“In these periphery cities people’s lives are even more difficult than in the centre, near Tel Aviv. It is essential to express the solidarity of the whole movement with the populations of these communities,” Shafir added.

She also rejected any immediate opening of negotiations with the government.

“For a month (Prime Minister) Benjamin Netanyahu has been trying to humiliate us, divide us, buy time — and he has done absolutely nothing,” she said.

“It is up to the government to take concrete steps to demonstrate its goodwill, only then can a dialogue begin.”

An opinion poll released by Channel 10 television Tuesday showed that 88 percent of respondents said they supported the movement, with 53 percent saying they are willing take part in protests.

Last Saturday, more than 300,000 people demonstrated in Tel Aviv and other cities calling for “social justice” and a “welfare state.”

Under pressure from the protests, Netanyahu said he was willing to alter his approach to the free-market economy and meet the demands of the demonstrators. He created a commission to propose reforms and present recommendations to the government within a month.