Protesters lock horns at anti-water tax demonstration

A rally against the drought tax, held in Tel Aviv on Sunday, turned into a shouting match between rival protesters over how to demonstrate and against whom. About 15 people attended the demonstration in front of the Water Authority offices. They held banners and shouted for Uri Shani, the head of the authority, to come out and speak to them. What started as a peaceful and united protest quickly turned into a ruckus once television film crews made it to the scene. Protesters interrupted one another's statements and turned to bickering among themselves regarding how best to address the issues. Things got worse when a Water Authority representative came to talk with the protesters, but wasn't given a chance to speak over the din of shouts and accusations by some of the activists. Likud MK Miri Regev also made an appearance, but quickly backed off upon seeing the commotion. The group that organized the protest is called The Public Battle Against the Drought Tax. It has a large following on social networking Web sites and recently signed nearly 90,000 people to an online petition calling for a common price for water use, instead of the differential system currently in place. It also called for increased government investment in water desalination. Opposite them was a social and environmental organization called Meshanim, which is against the suggested solution of water desalination and suggests reducing water pollution and cleaning up the freshwater sources instead. Its representatives claimed that desalination is a plot to enrich the plants' owners and fails to address the key problems. The two groups accused each other of sabotaging the cause, and intentionally disrupted television crews' attempts to interview the speakers. Regev said she planned to pursue the issue in the Knesset, where she heads the Lobby for Strengthening the Periphery and the Subcommittee for the Outlying Areas. The water tax law was approved by the Knesset in July and will go into effect in January.