Cost-of-living Protests Must Resume, Say 80% of Israelis

78% feel that protests against the high cost of living should continue; 29% declared they would take part in the next protest.

As the surveys keep showing that last summer's cost-of-living protests barely dented consumer prices, activists are revving their engines to resume demonstrating after a sleepy winter.

Their calls evidently won't fall on deaf ears. In a survey by the College of Academic Management Studies, half the respondents said the protests achieved nothing. A full 45% of respondents suspected that companies were raising prices again after a brief hiatus of discounts.

And 78% feel that protests against the high cost of living should continue; 29% declared they would take part in the next protest.

As the impromptu protest leaders continue to swap ideas, specific dates are taking shape. On May 12, for instance, the Yisrael Yekara Lanu (Dear Israel ) movement is planning an event called Demonstrating for Democracy. July 14, the anniversary of the first protest tent on Tel Aviv's Rothschild Boulevard, has been earmarked for a happening as well.

It isn't that the summer protests, which culminated in mass demonstrations by hundreds of thousands of Israelis, had no effect. They spawned a number of committees and initiatives; for example, the cottage-cheese protest, which expanded into a much broader boycott of products whose prices had been raised for no clear reason.

And the government formed the Trajtenberg Committee to discuss the roots of social unrest and think of ways to resolve it. There was also the recent Pesek Zman protest, triggered by a Facebook photograph of the Israeli candy bar selling at half price in New Jersey. Ministers have been squabbling over drives to lower housing prices.

Companies, either contrite or capitulating, wooed consumers with price cuts that they promised - sometimes - would be permanent. Cottage cheese fell from NIS 7.49 per tub to NIS 5.49. But for all the protests, boycotts, price comparisons and committees, the surveys are showing that the middle class' lot hasn't improved.

If anything, many people complain that their situation has worsened in the past year. "Almost everything is still expensive," said a frustrated consumer this week. "The prices of gasoline and electricity have risen significantly and they can't be boycotted. We have no choice but to bite our lips and pay."

It's enough to drop by the supermarket or gas station, or to pay your monthly rent, to understand that the consumer's situation is no better. TheMarker will be running articles next week showing that Israel remains one of the most expensive countries in the world to live in.

Rent, cars, consumer products and food cost more. Nestle breakfast cereal costs NIS 24 in Israel, compared with NIS 19 in the United States and NIS 18 in Britain. A two-liter bottle of 3% fat milk costs NIS 12.40 in Israel, compared with NIS 9.40 in France and NIS 8 in Italy.

In the Academic College survey, conducted by Dr. Avichai Shuv-Ami, 53% of the 1,019 Hebrew-speaking Israelis polled claimed that the social protests indeed changed consumer behavior. People buy a little less, choose cheaper products and are doing more buying by price rather than brand. But while the government set up committees to deal with the protesters' demands, 78% of the respondents feel that the high prices are Jerusalem's fault.