Israelis Protest Against Austerity Budget

More than 10,000 Israelis marched here late Saturday to protest a budget proposal submitted by Finance Minister Yair Lapid earlier this week.

Meanwhile, similar protests of smaller scales were also held in other cities including Jerusalem, Haifa and Ashdod.

The planned 2013-2014 budget, which is due for cabinet debate on Monday, is expected to raise workers’ income tax by 1.5 percent while increasing Value-Added Tax (VAT) from 17 percent to 18 percent.

Lapid has said the measures are needed to boost the country’s economy while cutting its deficit of 11 billion U.S. dollars.

But enraged protesters said the measures would heavily influence Israeli middle and lower classes.

Carrying banners that read “Take from the tycoons, not us,” demonstrators in Tel Aviv accused Lapid of betraying the middle-class Israelis who voted him into power.

“There’s no future with Lapid,” the crowd repeatedly chanted, a pun on the name of Lapid’s Yesh Atid (“There is a future”) party.

Saturday’s protest was the largest of its kind since the mass protests of summer 2011, when hundreds of thousands protested across the country over the rising costs of living.

“This massive turnout shows that the public has grown and learned something from the protests of 2011,” said Eitan Bar-Adam, a social activist and one of the protest’s organizers.

“This is just the beginning of our battle against the government,” said Bar-Adam, adding that protesters would continue with their calls until things changed.

The protest was attended by people from all works of life, including several prominent left-wing lawmakers.

“This is a budget that is bad for the Israeli people and the state’s economy,” said parliamentarian Tamar Zandberg of the Meretz party.

“I’m going to take part in these protests as well as votes against the budget and do whatever I can as a parliament member,” Zandberg added.