Israel Economic Protests: Israel Protests Press PM Netanyahu

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

Source: JOSHUA MITNICK, WSJ, 8-7-11

Massive demonstrations across Israel against the high cost of living point to a revival in the fortunes of the country’s long-dormant left-wing movement, forcing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to focus on economic policy at a time when he enjoys broad support for his handling of policy toward the Palestinians.

In a break with an older generation of Israeli leftists, demonstrators initially dismissed as spoiled youths in Tel Aviv have reached across the country’s left-right divide by focusing exclusively on pocketbook issues rather than contested Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Although Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition doesn’t appear in danger in the short term, it could become vulnerable if the economy plays a role in the next election.

Acknowledging the protests reflect “genuine distress,” Mr. Netanyahu on Sunday appointed a committee of cabinet ministers and economic experts to formulate proposals for overhauls. He cautioned, however, that “we won’t satisfy everyone.”

On Saturday night, more than 250,000 protesters across Israel demonstrated while waving red flags symbolizing old-time socialist political movements, and chanting for “social justice” and a “welfare state.” Over the past three weeks, a small tent city in central Tel Aviv protesting runaway rents has snowballed into Israel’s largest demonstrations in recent memory, despite Mr. Netanyahu’s efforts to demonstrate attentiveness amid the criticism. Real-estate values have gone up more than a third nationwide over the past four years….READ MORE

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