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Israel approves recommendations to help middle class

From Guy Azriel, CNN
updated 12:10 PM EDT, Sun October 9, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The government is responding to concerns by social activists
  • Israel's prime minister appointed a committee after millions demonstrated
  • "I promised and I delivered," Netanyahu says

Jerusalem (CNN) -- The Israeli government approved Sunday the recommendations of a financial report aimed at addressing social inequalities and hardships of living for the middle class.

The measures, approved in a 21-8 vote, were drafted by a committee that was established by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in response to the unprecedented nationwide social protests across the Jewish state over the summer.

The speed with which the protests grew took Israeli politicians by surprise. The day after more than a quarter of a million rallied in early August, Netanyahu appointed the special panel of experts to draft a series of recommendations on how best to reduce the cost of living.

The new plan, which includes drastic budget cuts in Israel's defense budget and comprehensive tax reforms, is considered by many as the most significant move Netanyahu's government has made thus far.

"I promised and I delivered," Netanyahu said Sunday. "The report is good for the citizens of Israel. It reduces the cost of living, reduces taxes, increases the available income, significantly takes part in the funding of childcare and makes housing more available".

The social protest movement began with a small group of activists pitching tents in an exclusive Tel Aviv neighborhood to protest high rents. It culminated in a nationwide movement made up of a wide cross-section of Israelis calling for social justice.

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