Thousands protest in Israel over handling of economy

Jerusalem, July 12 (IANS) Thousands of Israelis have staged a demonstration in Tel Aviv to protest against what they say is economic hardship caused by the government’s mishandling of the coronavirus crisis.

Rabin Square was filled with mainly young protesters wearing masks but not observing social distancing, the BBC reported.

They say government compensation payments have been slow to arrive.

The event was organised by small businesses, self-employed workers and performing artists’ groups.

Many are experiencing economic hardship and have been angered by coronavirus measures which have taken their livelihoods away. They say money they are due from government support schemes has not been paid.

While workers on salaries received unemployment benefits via a furlough scheme, the self-employed say most of them have been waiting months for promised government aid.

“I have 40 workers with no income, no money,” Michal Gaist-Casif, vice-president of a sound and lighting company, told the Reuters news agency.

“We need the government to pump in money until we’re back to normal. We haven’t been working since mid-March through April, May, June and July, and August is looking to be a catastrophe.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met activists on Friday to discuss their frustrations.

“We will meet our commitments including hastening the immediate payments that we want to give you,” his office quoted him as telling them.

Israel imposed a strict lockdown in mid-March but started lifting restrictions in late May. Unemployment has risen to 21 per cent.

The country has seen a spike in coronavirus cases with nearly 1,500 new cases reported on Friday. A total of 354 people have died from Covid-19 in Israel, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

–IANS
rt/

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