Israeli activists pitch tents in pre-election housing protest

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 01, 2015 1:27 PM

By Allyn Fisher-Ilan

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Dozens of Israeli social activists pitched tents in the coastal city of Tel Aviv on Sunday protesting about a housing shortage which is a key issue in campaigning for a March 17 election.

The protest on a main boulevard erupted four days after the nation's auditor published a report finding "significant deficiencies" that have pushed up housing prices - a problem dogging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's bid for re-election.

Shai Cohen, the activist who spearheaded the protest, said on his Facebook page he was calling the event to protest his own inability to afford to buy a flat.

"We will stay here until we achieve our goals," Cohen told Army Radio when asked how long the protest would last.

The protest was reminiscent of a similar demonstration against a housing shortage in 2011 that ignited social protests of unprecedented size in Israel.

Israeli pollsters see public anger at high living costs as a major factor for voters in the general election.

Opinion polls show Netanyahu running neck-and-neck with challenger Isaac Herzog, head of the left-of-center Zionist Union, linked to the Labour party.

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Netanyahu is seen as having a slight advantage of more allies to form a coalition government.

The Israeli leader flew to Washington D.C. on Sunday to address the U.S. Congress about the risks of a possible nuclear deal with Iran.

Analysts have seen the high profile event as possibly helping to boost Netanyahu's popularity by emphasizing an edge over competitors on matters of security policy.

(Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Rosalind Russell)