A day after over 300,000 Israelis took to the streets protesting the skyrocketing cost of living, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman chose to pour cold water on the growing protest movement against the government. Speaking to reporters at the Knesset on Sunday, he said that the cafes in Tel Aviv weren’t filled with tycoons but with new immigrants and young people.
"This is also a phenomenon that cannot be ignored. You look here and there and everywhere is packed to capacity. We don't need to be depressed," he said.
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Nonetheless, the foreign minister stressed that the protest was justified: "There is much to be proud of. It's true that there are problems but I wouldn’t take it to such extremes. We can't just paint everything in black."
A view from above of Saturday's mass protest in Tel Aviv (Photo: EPA)
According to Lieberman,"There is no doubt that everyone has just demands. The doctors, social workers, prosecutors, teachers, police officers. Everyone is right. The question is what does one do with all the demands put together?
"There are enough problems but there are things that can be done. First and foremost, we have a great asset in the form of economic stability and my advice is not to endanger that with hasty decisions," he cautioned.
On the other hand, President Shimon Peres called Saturday's demonstration "a testament to the nation's maturity."
During a meeting with winners of the Mathematics and Physics Olympiad, the president added that "it was the third time that tens of thousands of young people have taken to the streets with a message they wanted to convey. Things must be taken seriously and problems must be solved."
According to Peres, "I watched the demonstration, fascinated and filled with pride. Compared to other protests I have seen around the world, this one was civilized and reserved. It did not include insults and tongue-lashings, while trying not to turn a very real national problem into a political row."
Earlier on Sunday, the government announced that a team of 15 ministers as well as observers and economic experts will be appointed to head negotiations with leaders of the protest movement. Prof. Chairman of the Planning and Budgeting Committee of the Council for Higher Education Manuel Trachtenberg will head the team.
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