|Protesters shout slogans during a massive protest call for social justice|
TEL AVIV (Reuters) - A quarter-million Israelis marched on Saturday for lower living costs in an escalating protest that has catapulted the economy onto the political agenda and put pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Netanyahu planned to name a cabinet-level team on Sunday to address demands by the demonstrators, who in under a month have swollen from a cluster of student tent-squatters into a diffuse, countrywide mobilization of Israel's burdened middle class.
Israel projects growth of 4.8 percent this year at a time of economic stagnation in many Western countries, and has relatively low unemployment of 5.7 percent. But business cartels and wage disparities have kept many citizens from feeling the benefit.
"The People Demand Social Justice" read one of the march banners, which mostly eschewed partisan anti-government messages while confronting Netanyahu's free-market doctrines.
Police said at least 250,000 people took part in Saturday's march in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and other cities, a greater turnout than at marches on the two previous weekends.
Demonstrations on such a scale in Israel -- population 7.7 million -- have usually been over issues of war and peace.
In a "Peace Index" poll conducted by two Israeli academics, around half of respondents said wage disparities -- among the widest of OECD countries -- should be the government's priority, while 18 percent cited the dearth of affordable housing.Read the entire article