Israel MPs recalled for social discontent debate

AFP , Monday 8 Aug 2011

The Knesset recalls members from their summer break for a special parliamentary session on 16 August to discuss the social unrest in the country

Israel's parliament said on Monday it was recalling members from their summer break for a special session next week on the government's handling of a growing wave of social discontent.

The debate is to take place on August 16 in response to a request signed by 50 opposition members, the Knesset said in a statement.

They have filed motions that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet "is fighting the middle class and the disadvantaged," "ignoring the distress of doctors and hospital residents," and "has failed to find a solution to the housing problem."

The opposition also charges that the government's taxation policy "is divorced from the people and a mockery of their public protest."

Separately, the statement added, Netanyahu is to attend next Monday a meeting of the Knesset finance committee to discuss "the government's socio-economic policy."

Israel has been roiled by a growing protest movement which started in mid-July when a disgruntled apartment-hunter used her Facebook page to call for demonstrations over the cost of housing.

The grassroots movement has surged, with more than 250,000 people taking to the streets in cities across Israel on Saturday night, demanding cheaper housing, education and health care.

Netanyahu's office on Monday announced the formation of a committee he ordered to be set up to meet protesters' representatives and discuss their demands. It is to begin work later this week.

Chaired by distinguished economist and educational administrator Manuel Trajenberg, the committee has 14 regular members, including economists, senior civil servants and academics.

Eight additional experts will take part in meetings "as needed" and others brought in when needed, it said in a statement.

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