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Israeli Activists Pitch Tents in Housing Protest

Dozens of Israeli social activists pitched tents in the coastal city of Tel Aviv on Sunday protesting about a housing shortage which is a key issue in campaigning for a March 17 election.

The protest on a main boulevard erupted four days after the nation’s auditor published a report finding “significant deficiencies” that have pushed up housing prices – a problem dogging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bid for re-election.

Shai Cohen, the activist who spearheaded the protest, said on his Facebook page he was calling the event to protest his own inability to afford to buy a flat.

“We will stay here until we achieve our goals,” Cohen told Army Radio when asked how long the protest would last.

The protest was reminiscent of a similar demonstration against a housing shortage in 2011 that ignited social protests of unprecedented size in Israel.

Israeli pollsters see public anger at high living costs as a major factor for voters in the general election.

Opinion polls show Netanyahu running neck-and-neck with challenger Isaac Herzog, head of the left-of-center Zionist Union, linked to the Labor party.

Netanyahu is seen as having a slight advantage of more allies to form a coalition government.

The Israeli leader flew to Washington D.C. on Sunday to address the U.S. Congress about the risks of a possible nuclear deal with Iran.

Analysts have seen the high profile event as possibly helping to boost Netanyahu’s popularity by emphasizing an edge over competitors on matters of security policy.

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