About 100 Tel Aviv activists join Jerusalem demonstration; hundreds march in Tel Aviv, Be'er Sheva to protest housing crisis.
By Nir Hasson, Gili Cohen and Revital Hovel
25 July 2011
Some 200 activists protesting high housing prices marched Monday to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem, and several dozen protesters then proceeded to block Aza road across from Netanyahu's residence.
Housing protests have gained momentum in several cities across Israel, and activists from the Tel Aviv protest joined the Jerusalem protesters in marching to the Prime Minister's Residence while shouting slogans such as "Welfare State Now" and "We Want Justice, Not Charity."
Israelis march near Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem as they take part in a protest against rising property prices, July 25, 2011 Photo by: Reuters
Meanwhile, in Tel Aviv hundreds of people were marching from Habima Square toward central government offices where they intended on carrying on their protest. During the march, the housing protest merged with the doctors' protest, who are striking for better conditions.
Moreover, hundreds of students and residents in Be'er Sheva were marching in protest of high housing prices, and residents of unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev also joined the demonstration.
Earlier Monday, Netanyahu decided to cancel his scheduled visit to Poland this week. Netanyahu's cancellation was likely caused as a result of the rising housing crisis in Israel and the mass protests that have sprouted in various cities. Netanyahu most probably feared that his trip abroad would have amplified the public protest, in which demonstrators have largely blamed Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz.
Dozens of activists blocked major roads in Haifa, Jerusalem and Be’er Sheva as part of the housing crisis protests earlier Monday. In central Haifa, scuffles broke out between activists and drivers who were forced to stop. Eight activists were arrested in Paris Square in Jerusalem after refusing to clear the road.
Dozens of activists also blocked a road at the entrance to the Knesset. Five were arrested and one police officer was lightly injured.
Meanwhile, a new Facebook protest page went up Monday calling for a general strike on August 1. So far more than 3,700 people said they will participate. The page was created by social activist Zvika Basor, a 36-year-old Givatayim resident and father of a one-year-old baby. He wrote that he bought an apartment "with a crazy 30-year mortgage," and explained why he decided to go on strike: "I am sick of it. I can't keep going to work every day as if nothing is happening, pretending that if I work hard enough I'll be able to provide a decent life for my family and myself."
Another Facebook protest page created Monday called for a "tent city strollers march." The organizers called on fathers, mothers and single parents to march in central Tel Aviv on Thursday with their children and strollers.
On Saturday, tens of thousands of people marched in downtown Tel Aviv to protest rising housing prices, the first major demonstration in a movement calling attention to Israel's soaring cost of living.
Blame politics for the Israeli housing crisis
Do the young people who marched Saturday night from Habima Square need to ask where we, their parents, were when the politicans sold the country out from under them?
By Akiva Eldar Haaretz
25 July 2011
"Father, whose side were you on when they were selling our country?" asks a baby in a picture during a protest at Syntagma Square in Athens. The sign caught the eye of New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who visited Athens to better understand the economic-political crisis that has engulfed the country.
Do the young people who marched Saturday night from Habima Square need to ask where we, their parents, were when the politicians sold the country out from under them? Well, my dear Daphni Leef, one of the organizers of the housing protest, it's not just Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with his wild and irresponsible policy, who brought us to this point. It's also us, your fathers and mothers, who stood on the sidelines.
Our parents, those of the baby boom generation, children of the hope of the mid-to-late 1940s, established an admirable Jewish democratic state. Their grandparents built cities, paved roads and shaped institutions of government, education, health and welfare. They absorbed immigrants (yes, they also made mistakes ), and bolstered our defense against external threats. With the help of military power and moral strength given us by our fathers and mothers - many of them survivors of the inferno - Israel won in six days a military campaign on three fronts.
The day after the victory they told us that they were waiting for a telephone call from the Arabs. They promised us that when our neighbors offered their hand in peace, we would give them back the land. Since then we have stood aside while they sell peace for land.
We did not take to the streets when Golda Meir turned her back on Anwar Sadat and King Hussein. We stayed at home when Yitzhak Shamir fended off the London Agreement with the Jordanians and the Palestinians. We did not protect Yitzhak Rabin or the Oslo Accords. We stood and watched as Netanyahu rode the dark waves of Arab terrorism all the way to the prime minister's desk. Most of us submitted to Ehud Barak's lie of "there is no partner" and bought willingly Ariel Sharon's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, without an agreement with the Palestinians. We passed when the historic Arab peace initiative was proposed - nearly 10 years ago.
For the past 44 years we have sent our children, and soon our grandchildren, to protect with their bodies a piece of land that is not our own. Once in a while, a few refuse to serve in the territories. In the 1970s we turned the newspaper's pages indifferently, showing the photograph of Defense Minister Shimon Peres planting the first tree in Ofra. We listened with apathy to his decision to stick the settlement of Ariel in the Palestinians' throats like a bone.
Because Israel holds on to Yitzhar and Kiryat Arba, at the heart of the occupied territories, it spends more money on security, roads and public relations than it does on housing, education and health. The Haaretz report on the cost of settlements, published in September 2003, showed that the excessive civilian cost of the settlements is at least NIS 2.5 billion annually. The cost of extending the separation fence because of the settlements is expected to cost more than NIS 3 billion. The average military cost of using the Israel Defense Forces to hold the territory stands at NIS 2.5 billion per year.
Last week, the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies reported that Israelis pay 75 percent more tax for housing than citizens of other OECD countries. This is not only a relevant figure on the situation of the people in tents on Rothschild Boulevard, it's a blatantly political figure. Instead of investing a substantial portion of these tax revenues to develop settlements, real estate taxes could be lowered.
The Rabin government's decision in 1992 to divert budgets from settlements to the construction of public buildings inside Israel was a political decision, as was the Netanyahu government's decision in 2009 to grant settlements the status of preferred development areas. For their children not to sit in protest tents in the city square in 20 years and ask - "mother, whose side were you one when they sold our country?" - Daphni Leef and her friends need to understand that politics is the name of the game