Last updated: 4 August, 2012

Israelis protest tax hikes and lack of universal enlistment

Several thousand Israelis demonstrated their discontent at government austerity measures and the lack of universal military service in two separate protests in Tel Aviv late on Saturday.

Joining forces for what was hoped to be a large demonstration at the Tel Aviv museum were leaders of last summer’s successful social protest movement, along with members of the Israeli Forum for Equal Service, an AFP correspondent said.

They were protesting against a recent package of sweeping austerity measures the government said were essential to cut the budget deficit and shield the economy, including hikes in income and sales taxes.

In addition, the law which allowed ultra-Orthodox Jews to defer military service recently expired, and demonstrators united to call for universal military or community service.

Participants in the second smaller and separate protest, preaching a harder anti-government line and calling for its replacement, tried to disrupt speeches at the museum rally.

An AFP correspondent said there were minor confrontations between the two sides.

A police spokesman told AFP there were approximately 2,500 demonstrators at both events, which he said passed off without incident.

Saturday night’s demonstrations illustrated the growing chasm between different parts of the social justice movement in Israel.

While some people — such as leaders of the larger rally — seek to change things from within the current political system, they are accused by others of selling out to political and economic forces.

The latest protests also stand in sharp contrast to last year’s demonstrations, which brought hundreds of thousands of Israelis into the streets in a demand for lower living costs.