Protests in Israel are economic

A man moves an arm chair as Israelis occupy an abandoned public building as they protest against the rising cost of living in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Stacey Vanek-Smith: We've heard a lot about government spending protests in Greece and Spain. This weekend tens of thousands of Israelis are planning to protest government cuts.

Daniel Estrin reports from Jerusalem.


Daniel Estrin: Usually when Israelis take to the streets, it has something to do with wars, or peace talks with the Palestinians. But for the last month, Israelis have set up tent camps across the country to protest high rental costs.

Daphi Ben Tzvi, a woman at one of the tent protests, put it this way.

Daphi Ben Tzvi: The capitalism system is not working, we can change it.

As much as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is known as a political hawk, he is also known for his economic policies. Earlier in his political career, he helped Israel transition from a socialist-style economy to a more American-style free market.

Yet now he acknowledges some changes must be made. Israelis earn half as much as what American workers earn on average, but prices in Israel are double, says Daniel Doron, who heads a pro-market think tank.

Daniel Doron: You can imagine what a crunch it is for most people here. Most people barely eke it out.

But, the more things change, the more they stay the same. The economic rallies last week were cancelled after a deadly cross-border attack and renewed rocket fire from Gaza. But next weekend, protestors are planning a million-man march.

From Jerusalem, I'm Daniel Estrin for Marketplace.

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