Lieberman Trades Jibes With Social Justice Protesters in Sderot

Foreign Minister accuses demonstrators of being 'shouters for hire,' announces plan for free daycare, bonuses for IDF soldiers.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was greeted with shouts and catcalls in Sderot on Wednesday, as social justice protesters gathered outside the mayor’s office during his visit to the rocket-battered southern town.

Israel is experiencing a series of protests over the high cost of living and spiraling house prices, which have drawn tens of thousands onto the streets across the country on a weekly basis.

lieberman - Emil Salman - June 17 2011
Emil Salman

“You are responsible, you are to blame!” the protesters shouted at the foreign minister. Lieberman responded by branding the demonstrators “shouters for hire,” and insinuating that they were part of a ploy to discredit the government.

“We are here to provide solutions. Someone is responsible for [the protesters],” Lieberman said.

“We are fighting for our home, we are not shouters for hire,” one of the demonstrators said in response to the foreign minister’s comments.

Lieberman said he had not travelled to Sderot to “engage in chitchat, but in action.”

“We have a detailed economic plan, part of which is to provide free daycare for all children up to the age of three to four. Yisrael Beiteinu [Lieberman’s party] is strong on action, not chatter,” he said.

“We want to give soldiers a bonus of three months’ salary, three months before their release date,” Lieberman said, referring to Israel Defense Forces soldiers who are drafted into national service.

“And on the subject of housing, a builder who does not build on an area for which he has a permit will be fined. There will also be tax on empty apartments, as there cannot be empty apartments. There are 400 housing units that are tapped for the periphery,” he added.

Lieberman said he will present a detailed and structured fiscal plan at his party’s conference, which is set to begin Thursday. “We are a country in which the defense budget is of great importance and we have to take that into account,” he said. “We can’t manage our [budget] cuts via the media.”

The defense establishment and the treasury are currently embroiled in a row over funding for the military.

The Defense Ministry has responded uncharacteristically harshly to Finance Ministry demands for cuts in career army staffing levels, accusing treasury officials of "hysteria" and claiming they "have proved that they don't understand economics, society or defense."