Leaders of Israeli Social Protest to Present Netanyahu With List of Demands

Document calls for renewal of public housing construction, rent control legislation, and an amendment to force contractors to build 'affordable housing.'

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A document setting out the demands of the tent protesters in the areas of housing, welfare, education, health and economic policy is being drawn up by the movement's leaders, together with representatives of the students and other social activist groups.

The draft document, obtained by Haaretz, lists the demands, along with their estimated cost to the state budget, and claims that the expected income from these steps would exceed their cost. The paper was formulated in consultation with economists and other experts.

Hundreds of teachers demonstrating in Jerusalem Monday in support of the tent protests.Credit: Emil Salman

When the document is finalized it will be presented to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

When it comes to the area of housing, the focal point of the protests, the document demands the cancellation of the bill to set up national housing committees that is due to come up for a final vote in the plenum today. The bill aims to set up six regional committees that will operate for 18 months to fast-track housing plans.

The document also calls for the renewal of the construction of public housing, for legislation to control rents and rental conditions, and for an amendment to the Planning and Building Law that would obligate contractors to build "affordable housing."

Other demands by the protesters include a revamping of the income tax code, a gradual reduction in indirect taxes such as VAT, an end to privatization processes until they are re-evaluated, and raising the minimum wage to 50% of the average wage in the economy, currently NIS 8,698.

The document also demands adding 500 inspectors to enforce labor laws; expanding the Free Education Law to start at three months; reducing school class size to the OECD average (21.4 pupils per class ); adding slots for doctors and nurses to the health system, along with hospital beds and medical equipment, to meet OECD levels; and adding policemen, firemen, social workers and teachers to meet the levels in OECD countries.

Netanyahu will not meet with the leaders of the tent protests, nor will he open a dialogue or negotiations with them, but will refer them to the team of minister he plans to establish this week to find solutions to the housing crunch.

A source that has spoken to Netanyahu recently said that the prime minister "is convinced that the protesters are acting purely out of political motives." He said the goal of the protesters was to boot him out of office, the source said.

"Netanyahu ridicules the protesters' objections to the bill on national housing committees, which as far as he is concerned is a major component of his solution to the crisis," the source continued. "He told me, 'I propose a solution to the housing crisis, and Ms. Daphni Leef decides that she opposes it.'"

The atmosphere in the Prime Minister Office was more optimistic, sources said, in light of the conflicts that have emerged among the protest leaders, and following the retraction of their demand that Netanyahu conduct talks with them in public.

Protest leaders yesterday admitted that demanding that there be cameras present during talks with Netanyahu, if and when they should occur, was a mistake. They insisted in a statement, however, that there was no rift among them.

Meanwhile, groups representing thousands of teachers are expected to join the protests on Thursday with a call to fight educational inequalities and the privatization of educational frameworks. Most of the teachers involved are not employed directly by the Education Ministry, but by intermediary groups such as the Rene Cassin Association and the Karev Foundation.

Several protest leaders met yesterday with President Shimon Peres, who expressed support for the movement.

Asaf Shtull-Trauring contributed to this report.



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