A Day After 300,000 March for Social Justice, Netanyahu Government Pledges Change

PM to present special panel tasked with addressing the mounting public protests; Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz to head the team.

Israel's finance minister says the government will take swift action to reduce the soaring cost of living, looking to ease tensions a day after 300,000 people demonstrated across the country.

Yuval Steinitz told Israel Radio on Sunday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is slated to announce the formation of a special committee of government ministers and experts to address the demands of protesters angered over housing costs and a growing wealth disparity.

housing protest, Tel Aviv, mass rally, Sat 6/8/11
Tal Cohen

The protest began three weeks ago when young Israelis pitched tents on a Tel Aviv boulevard complaining of housing costs. Since then, the protests have mushroomed. Steinitz described the mass demonstrations as "impressive," and said Israel's cost of living is "unjustifiable and unreasonable."

Netanyahu was hard pressed to find experts from outside the government. During the past week he personally called economists from both the academic and private sectors in an effort to convince them to join the team.

Finance Minister Steinitz will head the team, however it is still unclear which other ministers will join him. Among the possible candidates mentioned in the past are Moshe Kahlon, Gideon Sa'ar, Gilad Eran, Eli Yishai, Ariel Atias, Shalom Simchon and Stas Misezhnikov.

Approximatley 300,000 people gathered Saturday night in Tel Aviv, 20,000 participated in Jerusalem, 3,000 in Kiryat Shmona, 5,000 in Modi’in,1,000 in Hod Hasharon and 1,000 in Eilat. However, those close to Netanyahu claimed the media inflated the numbers of participants in the protests.

In Tel Aviv, people marched from Habima Square, near the tent city on Rothschild Boulevard, to the Kirya defense compund on Kaplan Street. This marked the third consecutive week a rally has been held in Tel Aviv.

Smaller demonstrations also occurred in Ashkelon (more than 500 protesters), Dimona (around 200 protesters) and Eilat (1,000 protesters).

Around 1,000 protesters blocked the Shomrim Junction in the Jezreel Valley. The rally was held under the slogan, "The northern periphery is awakening."