Israel to See Paris-Style ‘Yellow Vest’ Protests

YERUSHALAYIM -
French gendarmes apprehend a protester during clashes at a demonstration by the “yellow vests” movement in Paris, France, Dec. 8. (Reuters/Benoit Tessier)

Prices in Israel are going up – and consumer groups plan  French-style “yellow-vest” protests, hopefully sans the violence. Dual protests are set for Friday – one at the Azrieli Junction in Tel Aviv, and one at Paris Square in Yerushalayim. The idea for the protests was developed just this week by organizers, but by Thursday, thousands of people had signed up on social media for the protests. Several politicians are planning to attend, among them Yesh Atid head and former Finance Minister Yair Lapid.

The protest comes on the background of recent announced price increases on a number of basic products and services. The Israel Electric Company has been given permission by the Public Utility Commission to raise rates between 6.9 percent and 8.1 percent; the Water Authority said that water prices would rise nationwide by an average of 4.5 percent; Osem, one of the largest food manufacturers in Israel, announced that prices would go up at the beginning of 2019 by between 2 percent and 4.5 percent on a large number of its products; dairy concern Tnuva has announced price rises of between 2 percent and 3 percent; and bakeries and bread companies are seeking price increases on price-controlled bread products of 3.4 percent.

Organizers of the protests have called on the more than 5,000 people who responded to the call to protest to wear yellow vests, similar to the protesters who took to the streets of Paris in recent weeks to protest gas tax hikes. Many Israelis have such vests; according to the law, all drivers must have a yellow vest in their vehicles, which they wear if they have to get out of the vehicle if they break down or have another problem while on the highway.

Organizers said that “for hundreds of thousands of Israelis, the price increases that have been announced on food, water and energy are going to be destructive. The price rises are the equivalent of these organizations sticking their hands into the pockets of the elderly and the poor who live on stipends, and from families who earn low incomes. Israelis are the ones getting the bill on the corruption and lack of effort by the government, and they are tired of paying that bill.”