Prof. Yossi Yonah (center right) and Prof. Avia Spivak - Alon Ron - August 1
The alternative expert panel for socioeconomic change at a press conference in Tel Aviv, August 15, 2011. Photo by Alon Ron
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not promising to accept the reforms proposed by the expert committee he appointed to dialogue with the tent protesters. He would, however, take them seriously, he told the Knesset Finance Committee yesterday.

"I'm not committed to accept the [panel's] recommendations, but I'll take its conclusions very seriously," he told the meeting, which took place at his office. "It's impossible to solve the problems in days, or by pulling a rabbit out of a hat. But it is possible within a few weeks, and I'll do so.

"Israelis have trouble finishing the month, and the gaps in society are large," Netanyahu continued. "On one hand, my goal is to reduce the gaps and make life easier for the public, especially the middle class. On the other, it's to preserve Israel's economy and financial strength."

Consequently, he said, he wouldn't approve any recommendation that he believed would undermine Israel's economic stability.

Finance Committee chairman Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) said the main purpose of the meeting had been to find out what the prime minister was planning, since the Finance Committee would most likely have to approve whatever proposals Netanyahu ultimately adopted.

But both coalition and opposition MKs took the opportunity to air their own gripes and offer their own solutions to the country's socioeconomic problems.

"Children have become something for the rich," complained MK Carmel Shama-Hacohen (Likud ), who also chairs the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee. "Middle-class children are the country's future, so we need to reduce the cost of raising children."

MK Shelly Yachimovich (Labor ) blasted Netanyahu, defining the tent protests as "a deep ideological struggle between economic worldviews.

It's your capitalism versus the social democratic worldview I represent," Yachimovich continued. "Therefore, there's no realistic chance that you can satisfy the protesters' demands, as they are essentially social democratic."

Defense Minister Ehud Barak also weighed in on the protests yesterday, telling reporters during a tour of the Negev that he favored raising taxes on the rich and increasing the deficit, if necessary, to finance a "New Deal." But he said he would also support cuts in the defense budget as part of "a real package deal that addresses all the fundamental problems."