The organizers of the housing protest that has sprouted a "tent city" along Tel Aviv's Rothschild Boulevard slammed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Sunday for turning a deaf ear to their demands for social change, and urged him to meet them in person for talks.
Some 150,000 people took to the streets nationwide on Saturday night in what was defined as "the largest social protest in the history of the Israel," demanding reforms that would address mainly the escalating costs of living. Since then, Finance Ministry Director-General Haim Shani resigned, a gas tax break was announced and Netanyahu declared the establishment of a ministerial team that would hold a dialogue with the activists.
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The protesters dismissed the promises, calling Netanyahu's committee offer "manipulative" and threatening a bolstered protest effort if their demands are not met.
"The numerous protest rallies held last night across the country, which were attended by 150,000 people, voiced our mutual outcry for social justice clearer than ever," the initiator of Tel Aviv's tent protest, Daphni Leef, said.
"It appears that the outcry made no impression on the prime minister, who insists on digging in his heels. The prime minister is apparently having trouble hearing the suffering and demands of the people he pretends to represent.
"A different language and behavior are forming in response to his deaf ears," she added. "We come out on the streets and demand the system to be changed, while he establishes another committee and tries to escape his and his government's basic responsibility towards us.
"Mr. Netanyahu, you must understand that on our part, there's only one way that a dialogue can be held: with transparency, in front of all of us – the entire public – and not with a ministerial committee, but with you."
Protest organizers (Photo: Yaron Brener)
'Events of past week – just a glimpse'
The activists further accused Netanyahu of using scare tactics, and presented their preconditions to negotiations with him.
"In his press conference this morning the prime minister repeated the word 'responsibility' over and over, but his response to the demands of hundreds of thousands of people who rallied last night isn't responsible, and does not bear any news," said Regev Contes, of the protest's organizers.
"The prime minister is attempting to scare the public by saying that social justice will bring to financial collapse. The prime minister must open his eyes and understand that the collapse is reaching its peak. The system is what's collapsing. It is what draws the masses to the streets in Israel, here and now.
"The people demand a profound change, and the prime minister retorts with an improvised, manipulative proposal, a proposal that has no principles and no goals," he continued. "This is not responsible action. Moreover, the prime minister does not take personal responsibility for the situation, asking a ministerial committee to meet around round tables and so on and so forth. He doesn’t understand what responsibility is."
"We demand the prime minster to meet us for a dialogue based on the social justice principles we presented yesterday at the rally," activist Yigal Rambam said. "In order for us to meet for a real dialogue, the prime minister must fulfill two conditions.
"First of all, he must immediately withdraw the public housing committee bill, and remove it entirely from the Knesset's agenda. Secondly, the talks must be fully transparent, with the presence of cameras, to ensure proper representation and to allow a true public discussion for the first time.
"If you choose to bring the public housing committee bill up for a vote on Wednesday, the public will come out on the streets, and you will face a civilian protest force," Ramabam said, adding that the protest events of the past week are just a glimpse of what's to come if solutions are not offered.
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