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Netanyahu pledges change amid growing social protests in Israel

Israel Materials 31 July 2011 16:49
Israelis Premier Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday pledged further action to curb high housing prices and the soaring cost of living on the 18th day of growing social protests throughout Israel.
Netanyahu pledges change amid growing social protests in Israel

Israelis Premier Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday pledged further action to curb high housing prices and the soaring cost of living on the 18th day of growing social protests throughout Israel, DPA reported.

Netanyahu said he would appoint a ministerial committee to hear ideas and complaints from social organizations and protest representatives.

The committee should then form a "responsible and implementable plan to ease the economic strain on Israeli citizens," he said.

"We are all aware of the real hardship of the high cost of living in Israel," Netanyahu told the cabinet.

The protests prompted Israeli Finance Ministry Director-General Haim Shani to announce his resignation on Sunday after some 18 months in the job. He cited "differences of opinion on essential issues" with the finance minister.

For the second Saturday evening in a row, Israelis, responding to calls on social internet sites, held mass demonstrations in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and elsewhere.

Local media put the total turnout at more than 150,000, with the largest demonstration in central Tel Aviv drawing at least 70,000 people. Police said at least 100,000 took part in the nationwide protests.

Since July 14, Israelis have set up spontaneous tent camps in 15 towns and cities, protesting at skyrocketing housing prices, which have gone up by more than 60 per cent over the past four years.

The general cost of living is also extremely high, with Tel Aviv being the most expensive city in the Middle East. Only seven cities in Europe - Moscow, London, three in Switzerland and two in Scandinavia - are more expensive, according to a 2011 survey.

Some protesters held up signs, using Netanyahu's nickname and saying "Bibi, you are fired." Other signs said: "The nation wants social justice."

The protests of the past two weeks, with that on Saturday the largest, have been the largest social protests in decades.

The last largest political demonstrations were against former prime minister Ehud Olmert's handling of the second Lebanon war in 2006, and after the assassination of late premier Yitzhak Rabin in 1995.

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