x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Huge demonstrations force Israeli PM to create cost-of-living taskforce

As the director general of the Israeli finance ministry resigned, blaming a 'fundamental difference of opinion' with his superiors, at least 100,000 people demonstrated on Saturday over the high cost of living and income disparity.

Thousands of Israelis squeeze into Zion Square, Jerusalem, on Saturday calling for changes in government over the rising cost of living in one of several demonstrations in Israeli cities.
Thousands of Israelis squeeze into Zion Square, Jerusalem, on Saturday calling for changes in government over the rising cost of living in one of several demonstrations in Israeli cities.

JERUSALEM // The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, yesterday ordered the creation of a task force charged with finding ways to alleviate the cost of living, a day after huge nationwide protests.

His announcement came as the director general of the finance ministry resigned, citing a "fundamental difference of opinion" with his superiors, the Israeli news site Ynet reported.

At least 100,000 people protested in cities across Israel on Saturday in the latest show of force by a protest movement that has exposed deep anger about the cost of living and income disparity.

At the start of his weekly cabinet meeting, Mr Netanyahu said he would name "a team of ministers who will set up a round-table discussion with representatives of various sectors to allow them to share their concerns".

He said the team would create a "practical plan" to be presented to the government for implementation.

Mr Netanyahu said he was aware of the genuine hardship faced by many in Israeli society, but warned against "irresponsible, hasty and populist steps that are liable to cause the country to deteriorate into the situation of certain European countries, which are on the verge of bankruptcy and large-scale unemployment".

It seemed unlikely that his announcement would be enough to dampen protests over the cost of everything from housing to childcare. Even as Mr Netanyahu met his cabinet, thousands of members of the Israeli Medical Association doctors' union gathered outside parliament as part of their protest in support of better wages and working conditions.

Israeli media also reported growing support for two protests,- a general strike today that has already gained the backing of the local authorities' union, and a plan for a mass withdrawal of cash from banks on August 8 to protest against high banking fees.