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Middle East
Israelis protest over austerity measures
Mass rallies held across Israel against tax hikes and spending cuts implemented by PM Netanyahu's Likud party.
Last Modified: 05 Aug 2012 02:43

Several thousand Israelis have demonstrated their discontent at government austerity measures and the lack of universal military service in two separate protests in Tel Aviv.

Saturday’s rallies were in protest against a recent package of sweeping austerity measures the government said were essential to cut the budget deficit and shield the economy, including hikes in income and sales taxes.

In addition, the law which allowed ultra-Orthodox Jews to defer military service recently expired, and demonstrators united to call for universal military or community service.

The demonstrations illustrated the growing chasm between different parts of the social justice movement in Israel.
While some people seek to change things from within the current political system, they are accused by others of selling out to political and economic forces.

The latest protests also stand in sharp contrast to last year's demonstrations, which brought hundreds of thousands of Israelis into the streets in a demand for lower living costs.

In recent weeks, demonstrations have, at times, turned deadly, with some protesters setting themselves on fire.

Opinion poll

Meanwhile, the popularity of Netanyahu's Likud party has fallen while that of the opposition Labour party is rising fast, the results of a newspaper poll showed on Friday.

The opinion poll carried out by the Dialog Institute for the daily Haaretz showed that if a general election were held now, Likud's current 27 seats in the Knesset, or parliament, would fall to 25. A July poll said Likud would secure 29 seats.

Shelly Yachimovich's Labour, with 13 seats now, would win 21 seats in an election, well up from a July estimate of 14.

An Israeli protester set himself alight during a mass rally on July 14 against country's spiralling living costs

A total of 513 adults were surveyed for the poll, with a margin of error of 4.1 percentage points.

The poll also showed Netanyahu's personal popularity plummeting to its lowest point since his election in 2009 because of a series of tough austerity measures.

Asked if they were satisfied or dissatisfied with Netanyahu's performance as prime minister, 60 per cent said they were unhappy, while 31 per cent said the opposite. The rest had no opinion.

Israel's next general election is due in October 2013.

But the poll showed that if one were held now, the centrist Kadima party would see its representation decrease from a current 28 seats to just seven (nine in July).

The recently formed Yesh Atid [There is a Future] party would harvest 12 of those seats (16 estimated in July). Other parties would stay generally where they are now in terms of representation, the poll showed.

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