Jlem housing protest 26711 Olivier Fitoussi
Demonstrators join the housing protest in Jerusalem, July 26, 2011. The sign reads: They are in towers and we are in tents. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi
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Emil Salmon
Union of Local Authorities in Israel Chairman Shlomo Buchbut debating the housing struggle with members of Knesset on July 25, 2011. Photo by Emil Salmon

Histadrut Labor Federation Chairman Ofer Eini warned on Wednesday that the Histradrut would join the housing struggle unless Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu invites Eini and other relevant officials to a meeting to determine solutions for the troubles of Israel's lower and middle classes.

In a press conference, Eini said he would take all possible measures available to the Histradrut unless Netanyahu arranges the meeting by Saturday night.

Eini opened the press conference by saying that housing prices were just part of the overall social problem facing Israel today, and just one cause of the erosion of the middle class and weaker sectors of society.

Eini said he approached all the relevant authorities in attempt to find a solution.

"Over the last month, I have met with the Finance Minister and the Industry, Trade and Labor Minister and I said, 'Let's get together.' We also made a written request to find a solution, and unfortunately we did not get a response. The protest got underway," he said.

"In the media the recent protest has been referred to as the 'housing protest'," Eini continued. "The housing prices are high, as are rental prices, but the problem is not only the cost of housing. The problem lies with the middle class and weaker sectors of society. If once I was able to go to the supermarket and make a NIS 700 purchase, today I pay double. And that is not linked to the CPI. If the CPI rises 3%, the supermarket prices rise 30%. The one benefiting from these rising prices is the government."

According to Eini, "We have ideas and solutions, we have sat with all the authorities, but there is no doubt that money is required for all these solutions. Where does the problem lie? In that the government has not only fallen in love with the money they are used to collecting, but also with the extra money."

Earlier on Wednesday, the Union of Local Authorities in Israel announced that it will join the housing shortage protest and declared a general strike for August 1.

The Union of Local Authorities will assemble for an urgent meeting on Thursday, where they are expected to finalize a decision to hold a general strike on August 1. According to the union, "Since the government has stopped serving the public, the services that government offices receive from the local authorities will be harmed."

Over the last few days, with the development of the housing protest, the head of the Local Authorities faced a dilemma: some local authorities supported the tent protesters, and even helped connect them to water and electricity, while others created difficulties for the demonstrators, either by serving eviction orders forcing them to clear their tent sites or simply by not providing official support.

Union of Local Authorities Chairman Shlomo Buchbut said that "the housing struggle is important, and the prime minister missed that the struggle is intended to save Israel's middle class, which is facing a complete collapse."