Gas protest outside PM's office Jan. 11, 2011 (Emil Salman)
Protesters outside the PM's office on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2011. Photo by Emil Salman
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Gas price hikes went into effect at midnight after Likud Knesset members yesterday expressed fury at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz for implementing what they described as a callous policy that could drive the party from power. Likud ministers also joined in the condemnation.

Gas prices have now reached a new high of NIS 7.26 per liter for octane 95 - 12 agorot more per liter than in January.

Likud MKs accused Netanyahu and Steinitz of being "cut off" from the people.

"The Likud must pull itself together before our voters don't recognize us as their representatives any more," said MK Carmel Shama-Hacohen, who called for an urgent faction debate on the issue.

"The decision to raise gas prices is seen by the public as abusive, [it will raise] a feeling of disgust and a desire to settle scores with the government," Shama-Hacohen, chairman of the Knesset's Economic Affairs Committee, wrote to Likud faction chairman MK Ze'ev Elkin.

"It is not clear why the public must pay more than in Europe," he said.

MK Miri Regev submitted two bills to regulate water and gas prices. "The finance minister can't raise gas prices and receive the Finance Committee's approval afterward," she said.

MK Danny Danon collected Likud central committee members' signatures on a demand to convene the committee for an urgent debate amid the gas and water price hikes. "Activists are calling in," he said. "This regards everyone. Bibi and Steinitz are causing the Likud damage. Steinitz makes a scandalous decision, and Bibi isn't stopping him. Committee members tell me they won't vote Likud any more," he said.

Likud ministers also blasted Netanyahu and Steinitz, saying they were leading an anti-social policy. "After Bibi rectified his callous unfeeling image as finance minister, he is causing the Likud damage again," one minister said.

The opposition also castigated the price hikes and opposition factions discussed a no-confidence motion.

MK Yulia Shamalov Berkovich (Kadima ) called from the Knesset podium "on all Israelis to stop buying gas from tomorrow."

"If you can't get to work, don't," she said. "Maybe this will be the beginning of a serious fight. Let the government start understanding the hint. I want to ask the cabinet what they were thinking when they decided to continue the brutal, uncompassionate economic policy? Don't they live here? Don't they have families? Don't they have brothers, sisters, friends who can explain to them that people can't make ends meet?"