Israel’s new protest movement won a personal meeting Tuesday morning with President Shimon Peres, who praised them for their non-violence.
He convinced the protest leaders to join a roundtable discussion with the government and employers, as suggested by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The leaders of the demonstrations initially demanded that the Prime Minister personally and publicly meet with them.
Their demonstrations have evolved from focusing on housing to a wide range of social complaints.
President Peres greeted the protest leaders at his official residence in Jerusalem. "I thank you for coming,” he said. “Beit HaNasi [the President’s House] is open and attentive to the feelings of the people of Israel. A real and authentic voice is emerging from the grass-roots, calling for a change of priorities in Israel and an improvement in the economic conditions of the middle class, who shoulder most of the burden of the Israeli economy and demand social justice.
“The tent protests all over the country exposed the deep pain that the middle class is coping with. They are dedicated people working to support themselves and contributing to the economy of Israel, but cannot subsist on their monthly income. Your protest will not be in vain, because it is real and you won over the hearts of the people with a democratic, non-violent protest. You proved that there is a young generation of quality people that is not afraid for their voices to be heard, to act, and to demand their rights."
Itzik Shmuly, chairman of Israel’s Student Union, responded that is a “great honor" to meet the President.
“I must say that the reason that we are in the streets protesting is because we love our country,” he said. “We want to see Israel as our home and we are fighting for a better future in Israel. We truly love the society and country."