Israelis unite for major anti-govt demonstration

“The time has come for an all out war,” say Israeli students, social activists and the country’s movement for equality in military service laws. The groups are joining forces for a major anti-govt protest in Tel Aviv on Saturday night.

Leaders of the disparate movements are hoping that thousands of demonstrators will flood the streets of Tel Aviv for the protest.

One of the main causes behind the planned demonstration is the recent approval of austerity measures and tax hikes, which have plunged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s popularity to record lows.

Over 60 percent of Israelis are unhappy with Netanyahu’s job performance, according to a survey published by Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz.

“This isn’t only a young people’s campaign,” news website The Times of Israel quoted Chairman of the National Student Union Itzik Shmuli as saying. “It’s the campaign of everyone who bears the economic, social and defense burden – everyone who cares how this country will look in a few years.”

“The time has come for an all out war,” said Stav Shaffir, one of the unofficial leaders of the social justice movement.“We must stand up and show that we know how to join hands when necessary… to continue to fight in order to save this place, which we love so much.”


Pressure, uncertainty mount as military service law expires

Tel Aviv’s failure to reach a compromise over the issue of the military draft for ultra-Orthodox Jews and Arabs has also birthed a campaign for equality in Israel’s military law.

Most Israelis are required by law to serve a two to three-year stint in the military after their 18th birthday. The so-called ‘Tal Law’ expired on August 1, which for 10 years had exempted Arabs and ultra-Orthodox Jews from military service. The country’s secular majority has been putting increasing pressure on the government for more equitable military service laws.

The Tal Law was passed in the Israeli Knesset in July 2002 as a temporary law that required renewal every five years. There has been constant public denunciation of the law after it was renewed in 2007, which became even more pronounced in the wake of its recent expiration.

Boaz Nol, leader of the military service equality movement, said that activists have organized the rally because “things have come to a head. This week proved that the government is cut off. Two great historic opportunities to make a real change were squandered by a prime minister who gives free lunches to his allies – lunches that we pay for.”

Netanyahu had previously announced that he would “formulate a new bill that would guarantee a more equal sharing of the burden of all parts of Israeli society.” But Kadima, the largest party in the country’s Parliament, quit Netanyahu’s coalition government in July following a disagreement over the conscription of ultra-orthodox Jews.

Protest rallies are a familiar sight in Israel, which has seen an uptick in street demonstrations and antigovernment sentiment in recent months.

Saturday’s rally is scheduled for 8:30pm local time (17:30 GMT) in front of the Tel Aviv Museum.