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Netanyahu faces Israeli parliament over protests

Posted by Admin on August 16, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/netanyahu-faces-israeli-parliament-over-protests-230255945.html

By Allyn Fisher-Ilan | Reuters – 10 hrs ago

Israeli activists take part in a protest calling for social justice, including lower property prices in Israel, at the southern city of Be'er Sheva

Israeli activists take part in a protest calling for social justice, including lower property prices in Israel, at the southern city of Be'er Sheva August 13, 2011. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, under fire for his government’s handling of a month-long surge of protests against high living costs, faces a special debate in parliament on Tuesday.

Parliament has been recalled from its summer recess to consider the crisis, for once focused on social and economic issues rather than Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians or its Arab neighbors.

A motion introduced by the centrist Kadima party, one of four on the assembly’s charged agenda, targets “government imperviousness” and “foot-dragging” by Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition in addressing demands to cut taxes and housing prices.

Netanyahu has named a team of experts to look into possible reforms but he and financial officials have cautioned against any expansion of the state budget, wary of signs the economy is weakening due partly to a spreading global financial crisis.

“We are experiencing great turbulence,” Netanyahu told a parliamentary finance panel on Monday, adding: “We want to deal with both these problems — to relieve the cost of living and reduce gaps.” He also promised “substantial changes.”

Efforts by Netanyahu’s government to address protesters’ grievances seemed further complicated on Monday when an alternative panel of university professors stepped forward pledging to help protesters meet their goals. [nL6E7JD08N]

The Israeli protests, a rare sustained outburst of anger over domestic policies, have drawn hundreds of thousands to the streets since mid-July, when dozens first camped out on a Tel Aviv boulevard to complain of soaring rents, supermarket prices and taxes.

Soon a so-called middle-class revolt gathered momentum and spread to other cities, spawning several mass rallies.

More than 70,000 protesters thronged the centers of a dozen towns and cities across Israel on Saturday. Upwards of 250,000 demonstrated in the business capital of Tel Aviv last week.

Analysts say the unrest seems to pose no immediate political threat to Netanyahu’s two-and-a-half-year-old government.

But some officials say the controversy could inflame tensions in his coalition and result in national elections being held ahead of a scheduled 2013.

The parliamentary debate on petitions filed by four opposition parties will be an opportunity to air differences, but Netanyahu appears likely to win any votes held.

(Editing by Alistair Lyon)

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