Labor MK: Iran threat a distraction from housing prices

At renewed Tel Aviv tent protest, Itzik Shmuli accuses Netanyahu’s ‘ill-fated’ foreign policy of taking priority over domestic issues

Itzik Shmuli joins Meretz and Labor party activists in a protest outside the Knesset in Jerusalem before the vote on the state budget, June 17, 2013. (photo credit: FLASH90)
Itzik Shmuli joins Meretz and Labor party activists in a protest outside the Knesset in Jerusalem before the vote on the state budget, June 17, 2013. (photo credit: FLASH90)

Labor Party MK Itzik Shmuli accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of using the specter of an Iranian nuclear bomb to ignore the country’s rapidly increasing housing prices, at a rally Sunday.

Shmuli spoke to some 500 people at a housing protest on Tel Aviv’s affluent Rothschild Boulevard, where demonstrators erected tents in an effort to recreate the cost of living protests that swept the nation in 2011, and which Shmuli was a major part of starting four years ago.

“Netanyahu is sending young people to live in the Iranian bomb,” Shmuli charged, according to a Ynet report. “Outside of his ill-fated foreign policy, his disregard for the housing problem is particularly infuriating.”

His comments came less than a week after a damning report by the state auditor found the government had failed to address skyrocketing housing prices.

Netanyahu responded to the report by saying that while it was important, it paled in comparison to the seriousness of the Iranian threat, a reaction that infuriated many.

Shmuli said the Comptroller report was evidence that “the Netanyahu government has failed to deal with the housing crisis.”

Shmuli was the former chairman of the National Union of Israeli Students and played an instrumental role in leading the Rothschild Boulevard tent protests in the summer of 2011 that eventually morphed into a nationwide movement that sparked several economic reforms.

On Sunday, several hundred people took to the same spot to protest and set up tents again.

Organizer Shai Cohen said he decided to renew the protests after turning 40 and finding himself still unable to afford to buy an apartment.

Housing costs rose some 55 percent between 2008 and the end of 2013, the report by State Comptroller Yosef Shapira found last week. Rents, too, rose during that period by approximately 30%.

Several social justice campaigners joined the Sunday tent encampment, including “Milky protest” leader Naor Narkiss, Zionist Union and Meretz party officials and activists, Joint (Arab) List MK Dov Khenin and recently evicted residents from the former Givat Amal neighborhood in Tel Aviv.

The Likud asked the Tel Aviv municipality to break up the protest camp, but the municipality refused on Sunday.

Lazar Berman contributed to this report.

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