Bank of Israel Chief 'Surprised' by Protests, Says Economy Doing Well

Stanley Fischer says government should nevertheless address protesters' concerns; housing activists try to occupy a bank in central Israel.

Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer said Monday he was surprised by the housing protests across the country, "because the economy is doing well."

Meanwhile, ten protesters from the tent compound in Rosh Haayin in central Israel tried to occupy the local Bank Hapoalim branch, chanting "the tycoons will pay for the situation they have brought upon us."

fischer - AP - June 13 2011

Fischer said that decisions should be made on the political level. "Many times plans are suggested but they are not implemented," he said. "If there is a problem that you can't solve, you have to present it and see how you can solve it. Plans don't implement themselves – someone has to focus on the implementation."

Nevertheless, Fischer said he was impressed with the housing protests and the tent cities that sprang up around the country. "You can't not be impressed with the fact that 150,000 people took part in the protest Saturday night," he said. "We need to focus on the concerns and on the significant problems facing our society."

Fischer also addressed the issue of housing, saying that "since 2008, the apartment prices have risen very fast – 40 percent. During the immigration from the Soviet Union in the beginning of the 1990s, apartments were built at a very fast pace, about 50,000 apartments a year. The costs of apartments began to decline by 30 percent in the mid-90s due to the rapid construction. In the past decade, the number of households surpassed the pace of construction."

Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor also addressed the housing protests Monday. In an interview with Israel Radio, Meridor said that some of the protesters demands are justified, "but some, in my opinion, are exaggerated." He added that the government should conduct "a responsible dialogue with the organizers of the protests."