Opposition leaders join Dimona protests over regional job losses


Leaders of the Israeli opposition joined thousands of demonstrators in the southern town of Dimona to protest proposed redundancies at a major local employer, which local officials across the south fear will have a negative impact across the entire region.

Israel Chemicals is planning to cut jobs at its Dead Sea plants, which is a significant source of employment in Dimona and local towns. Protestors say that natural resources are the property of all citizens and that the lay-offs are indicative of a worsening situation in working-class towns across the Negev region. The Dimona, Arad and Yerucham municipalities all went on strike yesterday in solidarity with the workers while an estimated 2,000 people attended a demonstration at the entrance to Dimona, which briefly blocked Route 25.

The rally was attended by a number of opposition MKs including Zionist Union head Isaac Herzog, whose parliamentary faction held its weekly meeting in Dimona. He said, “Dimona is like a microcosm of everything that’s happening in the Negev and there’s nobody dealing with it.” While recognising that many people in the region did not vote for him in March’s general election, Herzog added, “I’m the opposition leader, and I intend to fight for you and with you, for the sake of social justice and a life of dignity.” Senior Zionist Union MK Shelly Yachimovich added, “It’s your right to vote Likud, but don’t leave them alone, don’t give up … make them keep their promises.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday met with Dimona Mayor Benny Biton, himself a Likud member, who said, “We don’t want to send Dimona 20 years backward. This city is a symbol.” Netanyahu agreed that Economy Minister Aryeh Deri will head a taskforce investigating unemployment in the south. Deri commented, “This is a milestone to remind us what our primary job is – to care for the periphery … We don’t have a magic solution but we have plans and we will put all of our efforts towards it.”