First Published: 2011-08-11


Israeli protest leader: UK riots 'warning sign'


Leaders of Israeli social protest movement warn: riots that swept Britain could take place in Israel too.


Middle East Online

The London fires could spread to Israel

JERUSALEM - Leaders of Israel's social protest movement on Wednesday called for more demonstrations this Saturday while warning that riot-swept Britain shows what can happen if public discontent gets out of hand.

Protest organisers on Wednesday called for more protests over the coming weekend, but not in Tel Aviv, scene of mass rallies last weekend.

"We decided not to stage demonstrations in Tel Aviv but to call for rallies across the country," activist leader Stav Shafir said.

"The important thing is to prove that the protest is not limited to people from Tel Aviv."

Student union leader Itzik Shmuli told public radio that Saturday rallies were planned in Afula in the north, and in the southern city of Beersheva.

Last Saturday more than 250,000 demonstrators marched on the streets of Tel Aviv and other cities calling for "social justice."

Shmuli said that while his members were committed to peaceful protest the unrest in Britain should sound an alarm bell to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"The warning from protests that has gone completely out of control can also be a warning sign to Netanyahu of what could happen if the public sees that dialogue (with the government) is insincere," Shmuli told local news website Ynet. "It could lead to a venting of anger here."

He said the students were committed to talks with the government.

"But we ask for a sincere and real process with the aim of bringing about real solutions and a change in priorities."

The public agency responsible for state-owned land, which is most of the land in Israel, approved on Wednesday Netanyahu's proposals to lower prices on land sales to facilitate affordable housing, in what local media called a historic decision.

"Land will no longer be used as a tool for profit but will serve the citizens," Israel Lands Administration chairman, Housing Minister Ariel Atias, said in remarks broadcast on state-run television.

Israel has been rocked since mid-July by a rapidly growing protest movement demanding cheaper housing, education and health care.

Haaretz newspaper warned on Wednesday that complacency could derail the movement.

"Protest organisers are facing the worst enemy in their struggle: loss of interest," the daily said.

"Organisers should not become discouraged even if the turnout is lower at the next demonstration or the media decides not to cover events in Rothschild Boulevard," it said of Tel Aviv's upscale area where many protesters set up a tent camp.

An opinion poll published by Channel 10 television late on Tuesday showed that 88 percent of respondents said they supported the movement, with 46 percent who voted for Netanyahu's Likud party saying they had joined protests.

A committee charged with examining the demands of the protest movement met for the first time on Tuesday, expressing the hope that its work would provide Israelis with a "better future."


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