The summer's protests were reinvigorated on Saturday night despite rockets falling in southern Israel, as well as the start of winter rain, with a demonstration of 20,000 people in Tel Aviv, 2,000 in Jerusalem and 1,000 in Haifa. In Tel Aviv, protesters marched from Rothschild Boulevard to Rabin Square, demanding a new socially conscious budget for the year 2012.
Protest organizers said they were pleased with the turnout in Tel Aviv. Daphni Leef, who was at the forefront of the protest movement this summer, opened her comments with a message to the residents in southern Israel saying, "This is a protest for the whole nation. Right and Left, we are all servants. Even a thousand-mile journey must begin with one small step. Over the summer, we took the first step, and we began to talk about it. Many say that the change in our consciousness was the greatest achievement of the protests and this is true. We cannot stop now, and we cannot give up. If reality does not change, we did nothing. We publicly criticize the private free market for showing no restraint, turning gluttonous and running rampant. The market may be free, but we are not."
Get the Israel Hayom newsletter sent to your mailbox!
Leef referred to protests leaders' demands in her speech as well. "We are struggling for our future. Knesset members must vote on a new budget, without the Arrangements Law [a yearly bill passed along with the budget, intended for economic stabilization but criticized for grouping a number of issues together and requiring a vote on the package, not individual laws], without the freeze in public housing construction and including a law for free education. You cannot bypass us anymore. Our pensions must not be your gambling fund."
Leef said that the struggle belongs to all citizens who want to live in Israel. "This struggle depends on us first and foremost. It is not a simple campaign nor is it short, and there are hard and complex days. But this campaign is the most important thing for our society and our future," she said.
National student union leader Itzik Shmuli, who marched with the protesters in Jerusalem, said, "Students are returning to campuses this week, which invigorates us to continue our protests in the streets. The upcoming school year will not be a normal academic year. These students, who are the academics of the future, will also learn how to fight for a better Israeli society."
Yael Bardo, who earned her Ph.D. at Princeton University in New Jersey and was one of the organizers of the summer's "stroller protests" on behalf of parents also spoke to the crowd in Tel Aviv. "They tell us that if we work hard, things will work out. Is there someone here who believes that? They abandoned us. They demanded that we all work hard so that a tiny majority could enjoy the suffering of the majority. The Trajtenberg report only perpetuates the practices that got us here, but these practices are not a decree of our fate. This economic system is a political decision. We demand that the state take responsibility. We demand a welfare state."
Yehuda Stein, of the "Shivyon Achshav" (Equality Now) movement, spoke as well. "The ultra-Orthodox public is an inseparable part of these protests. Only if we all work together will these protests bring about real change, equality and true solidarity between all of us," he said.
There was entertainment for the protesters, as well. The classic comedy troupe, the Cameri Five, reunited for the first time in 14 years to perform a scene written by renowned Israeli author Etgar Keret. Artists Shalom Hanoch, Karolina and Eli Luzon also performed.
The social protest planned on Saturday night in Beersheba was canceled by the Homefront Command following a barrage of Grad rockets fired from Gaza that exploded in southern Israel over the weekend. "We will not give up and we will renew the protest in the coming days, when the situation calms," said Doron Avichai, from Beersheba, on Saturday night.
Meanwhile, the government is expected to approve on Sunday the taxation recommendations of the Trajtenberg Committee. Some of these recommendations include canceling the additional fuel tax of 40 agorot (4/10 shekel, about $0.11) per liter, and providing two extra tax credit points for parents with children under age three, which totals about NIS 418 ($116) per child per month, or about NIS 5,000 ($1,388) a year.
The central recommendation is to levy a tax on the wealthy, called the "high earners' tax," which raise the taxes of those who earn more than NIS 1 million a year by an additional 2 percent. Other major recommendations include annulling import taxes on products that have no domestic production; lowering taxes in competitive markets (for example, electrical appliances); raising the capital gains tax (interest, stock exchange, savings, dividends, etc.) from 20% to 25% and raising corporate taxes to 25%. The framework of the income tax and corporate tax changes will be re-evaluated in 2014. The benefits will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2012, pending Knesset approval.
"Many households will save thousands of shekels a year or more following approval of these recommendations, and that is just the beginning," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday. "In the coming weeks, additional parts of the Trajtenberg report will be approved, with the goal of reducing the high cost of living in Israel. To anyone who thinks that it is possible for the state to spend without boundaries and increase the national overdraft, I say: We will not begin any budget adventures that will risk the Israeli economy's stability or lead to massive layoffs. We worked very hard to reach the economic stability of Israel's economy. We do not want to be in the situation of some other world economies today."
Along with the expected government approval Sunday, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz has decided to push off, for two years, an increase in taxes employers pay on their employees' salaries, a central clause in the Trajtenberg report.
"We decided to go back and lead by reducing taxes, some immediately and some gradually," Steinitz said. "However, these steps should be taken cautiously, allowing industries to adapt to the changes and be ready to cope well in advance of the tax reductions."
Following the expected government approval of the Trajtenberg recommendations framework, it will pass to the Knesset.
Steinitz will speak on Monday to the Knesset Finance Committee. Finance Committee Chairman
Moshe Gafni has said there will be some amendments to the recommendations.
Like our newsletter? 'Like' our facebook page!