Rising home prices trigger Tel Aviv protests

TEL AVIV — Tens of thousands of Israelis marched in the coastal city of Tel Aviv on Saturday to protest against rising housing prices and social inequalities in the Jewish state, an AFP correspondent said.

Brandishing banners and slogans which read “We want justice, not charity” and “When the government is against the people, the people are against the government”, demonstrators from all over Israel rallied in support of hundreds of people who have set up protest camps against the government’s economic and social policies.

The movement has gathered steam in recent days with protesters pitching tent camps across Israel despite warnings from right-wing deputies who accuse the left-leaning opposition of manipulating the demonstrators.

Since 2004, Israel’s economic growth rate has averaged 4.5 percent, while unemployment has fallen to around six percent from close to 11 percent over the same period.

But public disgruntlement is growing, fuelled by almost-daily revelations of social inequality, injustice and corruption.

A consumer boycott of cottage cheese launched recently on Facebook quickly led to a fall in prices of the Israeli staple.

The housing sector has been particularly hit.

“Today, it takes on average about one million shekels (200,000 euros, $295,000) to buy an apartment in Israel,” estate agent Eli Melloul told AFP.

“In one year, the average (purchase) price of housing has jumped 32 percent in Tel Aviv, and 17 percent in Jerusalem, he said.

Aware of voters’ concerns, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has addressed the housing problem, pledging to streamline planning and building procedures and to promote low-rent accommodation.

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