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Israeli Merchants. Retailers Stage General Strike to Protest Tax Hikes

About 40,000 merchants and shopkeepers all over Israel staged a one-day strike today to protest rising taxes and the government’s economic policies, Jerusalem alone of all Israel’s larger cities and towns continued business as usual. The merchants there decided against joining the strike because they are in the midst of negotiations with Mayor Teddy Kollek for a significant reduction of municipal taxes.

But in Tel Aviv, Ramat Gan, Haifa and Nahariya and most other urban centers, virtually all business establishments were closed, creating a Sabbath-like atmosphere in mid-week, The strike was joined by grocers, clothing and shoe stores, hardware and florist shops, furniture and appliance showrooms and other emporiums. In Tel Aviv and Haifa, only the consumer cooperatives and supermarkets were open for business. A few cafes remained open as well and some street vendors continued to hawk their wares.

SECOND THOUGHTS ON TAX REFORMS

The Merchants Association claimed that new taxes, especially municipal levies were “suffocating” them and were aimed at nationalizing commerce. The Farmers Association warned meanwhile that if the government adopted the tax reforms proposed by the Ben Shahar committee which include a tax on revenue realized in land sales, farmers from all over the country would demonstrate at the Knesset and elsewhere.

A spokesman for the farmers said the measure would force farmers to pay 50 percent of the income realized from the sale of land which they had worked for many years. Histadrut, which originally had welcomed the tax reforms recommended by the committee headed by Tel Aviv University president Haim Ben Shahar, a leading economist, apparently has had some second thoughts. A detailed study of the proposals now before the Knesset has convinced the trade union federation that the reforms will fall hardest on the wage-earners and that employers may even get more of a tax break than hitherto, despite the plugging of loopholes and abolition of many exemptions. Yeruham Meshel, secretary general of Histadrut, warned that Histadrut would oppose implementation of the reforms if they affect wage-earners only at first and not the entire population simultaneously. He also criticized the government for lacking plans for economic growth or to fight unemployment.

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