Shas, the Coalition's largest religious partner, voiced its support for the affordable housing protest movement Friday, blasting the government for allowing the housing plight to deteriorate into a full-blown crisis.
Housing crisis activists have called yet another mass rally for this Saturday. The second mass protest rally, which took place last Saturday and consisted of a series of demonstrations across Israel, had nearly 150,000 participants.
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"No one denies the fact that there is a serious housing problem and a serious problem regarding the cost of living," Shas MK Nissim Zeev told Ynet.
Shas, he said, never agreed to the government's proposed allocation of housing grants: "Our demands extended beyond that… but the prime minister and the finance minister rejected them, naturally."
He added that "the prime minister has made many promises and some changes began taking place before the protests, but if anyone thinks that there is a plan that can result in drastic changes immediately, they're wrong. These things take time."
'Problems can be solved'
Other Shas members welcomed the social protest: "This protest points to issues the government has failed to address, or addressed only partially and frivolously," MK Amnon Cohen said.
"There are many problems, but they can all be solved. There's no doubt that there are significant gaps between the rich and the weaker echelons. The middle class has been all but eroded… We've been warning against this for a long time, but the government ignored us, because there were other issues to contend with."
Still, Cohen warned that the protests "cannot be allowed to have a radical streak and turn political… It is clear that this protest is not a social whim and Shas is there, watchful, to ensure the government pursues the changes needed."
MK Yitzhak Vaknin added that the protest was foreseeable, even if not to its full extent: "I warned that this would happen months ago… it was clear that the public was no longer willing to suffer the cost of living silently.
"I hope the government comes to its senses soon, because the situation can still be rectified," he added. "Shas, as a socially-oriented party, has to push the government to get things done."
The 'Shas illusion'
But not in are in agreement. Whole Nation ("Am Shalem") party Chairman Rabbi Haim Amsalem – a former Shas MK – castigated the party for "sleeping on the job," saying that "Shas only appears to be a social party, but that's an illusion.
"Shas was the one to torpedo affordable housing on the past. Its members have been part of so many government and they let this happen… Some people perpetuate poverty and hardship for the sake of political gain," he said.
Shas is interested in perpetuating poverty because the weaker social classes are its power-base, Amsalem continued. "Hardship is perpetuated under the guise of studying Torah. Shas' way is that of darkness, not of light.
"We have to get the (religious) public out on the street to protest," he concluded. "They have to tell the politicians 'enough!'. You've leeched off of us for too long. Enough is enough."
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