Israelis march against austerity measures

Police say 2,000 people marched in Tel Aviv against new finance minister's proposed tax rises and spending cuts.

    About 2,000 Israelis have marched in central Tel Aviv to protest against an expected austerity budget, police have said.

    The protesters rallied on Saturday against proposed income tax and VAT rises and government spending cuts due for cabinet debate on Monday.

    They directed their ire at Yair Lapid, who became finance minister after January's election where his Yesh Atid party became the second-largest party in parliament and a partner in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition government.

    Lapid ran on a ticket vowing to help the middle class, who would be hit by the proposed budget with raised taxes and slashed benefits.

    Protesters in Tel Aviv carried posters of Lapid and banners that read "Take from the tycoons, not us," referring to the plan to raise workers' income tax by 1.5 percentage points while increasing corporate taxes by one point.

    'Demonstrating against yourselves'

    Lapid has said that caution was needed to stop employers from leaving for other countries.

    "Who are you demonstrating against?" he said in an interview aired on Friday by privately owned Channel 2 television. 

    "Are your demonstrating so that you can lose your jobs, so that the economy will collapse? You are demonstrating against yourselves." 

    About 300 people also demonstrated outside the Tel Aviv home of Energy Minister Silvan Shalom over plans to export Israel's new-found offshore natural gas supplies rather than cut prices to domestic consumers, local media reported.

    They said about 150 people each rallied in Jerusalem and Haifa.

    Protests in 2011 saw record numbers of Israelis from all walks of life come together in unusual solidarity, peaking on September 3, when half a million people took to the streets.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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