Countryaah official site, hundreds of thousands of Israelis, primarily in
Tel Aviv but also in Jerusalem, demonstrated on a number of
occasions during the summer for cheaper housing and food.
The government, apparently shaken by the commitment to an
issue that had nothing to do with the Palestinian conflict,
responded with a swiftly bundled reform package that
included an investment in cheap student housing. Israel's
economy was good, with growth of 4-5% and falling
unemployment, but the price levels were so high that even
the middle class had a hard time getting together everyday.
In exchange for over a thousand Palestinian prisoners,
the militant Islamist group Hamas released October 19,
Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, held hostage for over five
years. Shalit was received as a hero upon returning home. By
exchanging so many prisoners for a single, the government
lived up to the promise to do everything for the safety of
its soldiers, but at the same time signaled to potential new
hostages that it was susceptible to extortion.
In August, the Israeli military accidentally killed five
Egyptian border guards on the Sinai Peninsula. The target
was, according to Israel, militant Islamists who had killed
eight Israelis near Eilat. Israel lamented the incident, but
angry Egyptian protesters stormed the Israeli embassy in
Cairo on September 9, after which diplomats and other
personnel were evacuated to Israel.
Relations with Turkey became even worse. In a September
report, the UN criticized Israel's attack on the Mavi
Marmara vessel in 2010, stating that the killing of nine
Turkish activists was "disproportionate and unreasonable".
Some activists had been shot several times, others in the
back, which, according to the UN, countered that the
Israelis would have acted in self-defense. Turkey demanded
an Israeli apology, and when none came, Turkey expelled
Israel's ambassador, downgraded diplomatic relations and
interrupted all military cooperation, including trade in
Ehud Barak, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense
in the coalition government and former Prime Minister, left
the Labor Party in January and started a new party called
Atzmaut (Independence). Barak retained his ministerial
posts, but three other Labor Party ministers jumped out of
the government and joined the opposition, which weakened the
Around New Year 2011, it was reported that the US oil
company Noble had encountered a record-breaking natural gas
field, Leviathan, off the northern Israeli coast. Together
with an adjacent field, the discovery could make Israel
self-sufficient in energy.
Former President Moshe Katsav, who in 2010 was dropped
for rape, received his sentence March 22: seven years in