Protest leaders publish initial demands of gov’t

Tent city representatives, student union agree: Tax reductions, more money for social programs, additional free education top list.

housing protest representatives_311 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
housing protest representatives_311
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Representatives from the 40 tent cities across the country and the heads of the National Student Union on Tuesday reached an agreement over eight initial demands they will present to the Netanyahu government to settle the housing and other social crises.
By late Tuesday night, however, they were still meeting to discuss a final set of demands.
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Titled “Guidelines for a new social and economic agenda,” the eight initial demands include a reduction in indirect taxes (in particular VAT); the investment of surplus tax revenues in social programs by way of the state budget; the disbanding of a commission aimed at speeding up construction, but which protesters believe would only enrich building companies; an increase in the budget for the Ministry of Construction and Housing’s mortgage and rental assistance programs; free education from the age of three months; an increase in medical supplies and infrastructure at health facilities across Israel; a halt to the privatization of welfare and mental health facilities; and a gradual cancellation of private-contractor- run construction projects in the public sector.
The announcement did not include figures on how much the plan would cost or a timetable for its implementation.
Upon the release of the initial proposals, National Student Union head Itzik Shmuli said “there has been meaningful progress on the formulation of a document of principles that will be presented to the government, and the eight clauses therein... show we are working for social betterment, and not only in one field but in many.”
Shmuli said the goal was to “change the economy from one of numbers to one of people,” saying the job was not yet done.
“Our desire is to bring the document to the tent cities across Israel and hear what people think. But there is no doubt that the eight-clause document shows the level of seriousness with which we are taking these issues, and we plan to present the government with a wide-ranging document that will bring about social change,” he said.
A number of protest actions took place around the time of the announcement, including a march by hundreds in Jerusalem, and smaller protest marches in Rehovot and Hod Hasharon. The National Student Union said Tuesday night students would block traffic intersections across Israel throughout Wednesday.
The Histadrut labor federation said it would gather thousands of workers on the lawn of its Tel Aviv headquarters on Thursday evening in a show of support for the ongoing protests.
“Workers from around the country are an inseparable part of the middle and lower classes,” said Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini. “They represent all layers of society – Jewish, Arab, Right, Left, women, men and more.”
Eini said the labor federation was coordinating its efforts with protest organizers, and it had no ambitions to take the lead.