A demonstrator is arrested at a "Yellow Vest" protest in Tel Aviv, December 14, 2018.
(photo credit: YELLOW VEST PROTEST HEADQUARTERS IN ISRAEL)
Ten people were arrested in Tel Aviv on Friday for disorderly behavior, attacking police officers and failing to heed police orders as hundreds of demonstrators wearing yellow vests in protest over the rising cost of living brought traffic to a standstill at the junction of Menachem Begin and Kaplan streets. Police prevented the protesters from blocking the nearby Ayalon Expressway.
Inspired by recent protests across France and other major European cities, organizers urged the public to turn up in their masses to oppose increases in the price of electricity, water and foodstuffs, as well as to dismantle the power of monopolies.
Protesters demanded government action to slash the gas prices by 60%-70%, implement recommendations for food industry reform, and increase competition in all areas of the market.
MK Itzik Shmuli (Zionist Union), one of the leaders of the 2011 social protests that swept the country, attended the demonstration.
“The Israeli government has declared war on the chance of the middle class and weaker layers of society to keep their heads above water,” Shmuli said.
“The Israeli public is not supposed to pay the price of a failing government with a crooked policy and which has agreed to the corrupt gas plan, which has driven this crazy wave of price increases. People demand solutions, not more committees.”
Eager to emphasize that the demonstration is a grassroots initiative and not associated with any political party or funding, organizers called on the public to back a crowdfunding campaign to raise NIS 25,000 to purchase yellow vests and megaphones, and ensure the continuation of the protests.
“The Israeli government must discuss this crisis at its next meeting on Sunday, and decide to put an end to the price increases before all the country burns,” said protest leader Shai Cohen.
“Every family in Israel is going to lose hundreds or thousands of shekels every month due to the increases. From Nahariya to Sderot and Eilat, the public cannot and will not pay more for being abandoned. Food, electricity and water are not luxuries.”
On Saturday evening, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon announced the extension of cuts on a range of customs duties implemented in 2017. Affected products, worth NIS 1.5 billion in imports, include cellphones, electronic appliances, clothing and textiles.
"In the last two years, we have proved that lowering customs duties decreases the prices of goods," said Kahlon. "Wherever prices are increased unjustly, we will reduce duties and increase competition in the market.
"Despite the great pressures on us to reimplement the custom duties and raise taxes, we will continue to cancel customs tariff orders for the benefit of the public. To make it clear: Anyone who increases prices for consumers, unfairly, will soon regret doing so."
While cautiously welcoming the move, MK Amir Ohana (Likud) called for greater action to open the market to increased competition.
"It is a little unfortunate that the imitation protest of the infantile vests was needed for the finance minister to come to this conclusion, although every reduction in customs duties which can lower prices and open the market to competition is welcomed," said Ohana.
"I call on the minister to work for a free and liberal market, even in the remainder of the current year. In doing so, the Israeli shopping basket will grow in size and the cost of it will decrease."