Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
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following news reports are summaries from original sources. They may
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Massive Israeli Protests Against Netanyahu
August 7, 2011
Netanyahu promises change after massive protests over cost of
Ma'an, 07/08/2011 13:03
JERUSALEM (AFP) --
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday promised change
as he tried to ease growing anger over the cost of living after an
unprecedented number of Israelis took part in nationwide protests.
Speaking before a weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu acknowledged the
frustration of the more than 250,000 people who took to the streets on
Saturday night to demand cheaper housing, education and health care.
"We can't ignore the magnitude of the social protests," he said.
"We know that we need to make changes and we will do so, showing
ourselves to be responsible and responsive to the demands," he added in
remarks broadcast on public radio.
"We want to establish a real
dialogue and hear from everyone who can propose solutions, even if we
cannot meet all the demands," he said.
Netanyahu said he was
establishing "a special team" headed by prominent economist Manuel
Trachtenberg, the head of Israel's National Council for Higher
"I have mixed feelings about being tasked with this
mission, because changes are imperative, but the responsibilities and
the risks are enormous," Trachtenberg told Israeli radio.
unclear whether the appointment of another committee, the second
Netanyahu has proposed to establish to examine protesters' demands,
would ease the frustration that drew so many into the streets.
The turnout, believed to be the biggest for protests over any social
issue in Israel's history, showed the staying power and broad appeal of
a movement that began in mid-July over the cost of housing and has
In Tel Aviv alone, commercial capital of a
country of 7.7 million, an estimated 200,000 people were in the streets,
many chanting "the people want social justice" and "the people against
Police said another 30,000 protested in
Jerusalem, with 20,000 taking part in demonstrations in towns ranging
from Kiryat Shmona in the north to the southern cities of the Negev
Netanyahu has already said he takes the protests
seriously and will work to implement reforms, but he has warned against
the sweeping measures favored by many protesters, saying they could
plunge Israeli into financial crisis.
And he has appeared at
times to have been caught short by the size and appeal of the
demonstrations, which were first dismissed by his right-wing Likud party
Protesters have accused him of failing to take their
demands seriously, and were infuriated by his support for legislation
easing regulations for building contractors that parliament passed
before its summer recess.
Netanyahu says the legislation will
address protesters' demands by flooding the market with housing and
bringing down prices, but activists say it will merely encourage the
construction of luxury apartments.
They also say the government
has failed to understand the breadth of the reforms they seek, which has
grown to include lower taxes, an expansion of free education, lower
medical costs and a break-up of monopolies.
Israel's media has
largely thrown its support behind the protesters, with commentators in
Haaretz newspaper on Sunday describing the movement as a revolution.
"With emotion but great order, the masses
marched through the city shouting 'revolution'," wrote Yair
Ettinger. "Is this rebellion here to stay? Will it die out? For the time
being it's only picking up strength."
In top-selling Yediot
Aharonot, Sima Kadmon called the protests "the largest demonstration of
no confidence in the history of Israel."
Israel Hayom, a paper
considered close to the prime minister, offered a lone voice of caution,
warning that any reforms should be made "with utmost responsibility."
Israelis flood Tel Aviv for reforms protest
Published yesterday (updated) 07/08/2011 13:08
Almost a quarter of a million Israelis rallied in central Tel Aviv on
Saturday, police said, for a mass protest aimed at pushing the
government into reforms to ease the cost of living.
organizers appeared to have achieved their target of drawing a "critical
mass" out onto the streets to underline the staying power of a movement
which began in mid-July over housing costs.
It was the biggest
demonstration for a social cause in the history of the state of Israel,
which has a population of 7.7 million.
"The people demand social
justice" and "the people against the government," chanted the
demonstrators, carrying Israeli flags as well as some red flags of the
"This is Egypt," a banner read, referring to the
Arab spring of anti-government revolts.
The movement has
mushroomed into a full-blown social uprising calling for
across-the-board reforms to ease the cost of living and reduce Israel's
The Tel Aviv demonstration, authorized by
police, began from a tent camp and the protesters headed toward the
defense ministry and other government buildings.
thousands more protesters gathered in the city center for a another
march that was to take them to the residence of Prime Minister Benjamin
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld estimated the numbers
in Tel Aviv at more than 200,000 and another 30,000 in Jerusalem,
revising earlier figures as the crowds converged.
to reach a critical mass of more than 200,000 protesters to force the
government to radically change social policy," Hadas Kushlevitch, a
representative of the protest movement, told AFP on Friday.
Netanyahu appears to have been caught off-guard by the protests, which
drew 100,000 people into the streets in cities across Israel on July 30.
His government has so far shied away from the sort of sweeping
reforms that protesters are calling for, with Netanyahu explicitly
warning against costly measures that he says could plunge Israel into a
The Israeli media has also largely thrown its
support behind the movement, with commentators flaying Netanyahu for his
decision to submit protesters' claims to a committee and push through
controversial housing legislation.
The laws, passed this week
before the Knesset (Parliament) broke for a summer recess, streamline
the building process for contractors, which Netanyahu said would flood
the market with housing and bring down prices.
But social and
environmental activists say it will simply allow the construction of
more luxury housing and could be abused by contractors who want to build
without meeting environmental regulations.
Uri Metuki, a protest
leader, makes no secret of the fact that he expects "the battle will be
"We are trying to change nothing more and nothing less
than a whole system that privileges the interests of the individual to
the detriment of the collective interest," he said.
But he does
not see the movement running out of steam anytime soon.
movement has the support of a very large part of the population, which
is not ready to renounce its demands," he says, accusing Netanyahu of
acting "cynically ... in the hope that the movement will lose support."
The burgeoning movement sparked off over housing prices, when a
handful of young activists set up a tent city in one of Tel Aviv's
trendiest neighborhoods to publicize their inability to afford homes.
It has tapped into deep frustration over what Israelis say is a
growing gap between rich and poor and a general decline in social
services that the state once provided.
The protesters have seen a
new infusion of support from the Histadrut labor union, with several
thousand members of the organization joining demonstrators in Tel Aviv
The top-selling Yediot Aharonot newspaper on Friday
questioned why Netanyahu had taken so long to act. "If the protests are
justified as Netanyahu says ... then why did he not come to this
realization before they were triggered?"
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