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Middle East
Israeli parliament meets over protests
Emergency session to discuss month-long mass protests against high prices of food, housing education and healthcare.
Last Modified: 16 Aug 2011 10:04
Protests began in mid-July across Israel over cost of living and income disparity [EPA]

Israeli politicians have interrupted their summer recess to participate in a special debate on protests over the cost of living that have shaken the country.

Tuesday's session of the Knesset, Israeli parliament, comes after a month of mass protests against the high prices of food, housing, education and healthcare.

Although the parliament will debate the social upheaval, it is not expected to take action on any reforms until it returns to work in late October.

The unrest began in mid-July when disgruntled activists pitched protest tents in a wealthy district of Tel Aviv to illustrate their inability to afford housing in the city.


Al Jazeera's Cal Perry updates from Tel Aviv

Their protest quickly snowballed into a much larger movement, tapping into deep frustration across Israel over the cost of living and income disparity.

The movement managed to bring at least 250,000 people into the streets across Israel on August 6.

Protesters gathered outside the parliament on Tuesday before the debate.

Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, cancelled a foreign trip to address the issue, and has set up a committee headed by respected economist Manuel Trajtenberg, to draft reform proposals.

Reporting from Tel Aviv, Al Jazeera's Cal Perry said that, "I think it's a good litmus test, not only for the people here protesting, but also for the prime minister, for him to find out how much pressure he is actually under within the Israeli government.

"A lot of the people here are wondering if they're going to hear the bigger and broader debate about the economy in Israel. People here, within the tent city, want to keep the protests very focused on the economic issues at hand... rent prices, people's pensions, very specific issues."

Netanyahu has said that Israel will not spend outside its current budget and says that the sweeping and costly economic reforms championed by protesters could push the country into a financial crisis.

Israel's opposition has seized on the social upheaval to attack Netanyahu's government, with Tzipi Livni, head of the opposition Kadima party, accusing the prime minister of failing to understand the protesters.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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