Trajtenberg - GPO -14082011
Committee head Manuel Trajtenberg, left, meeting with President Shimon Peres last week. Photo by GPO
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The advisory committee appointed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in response to the growing social protest movement will communicate with citizens over their demands for socioeconomic change through a number of forums − including a visit within the next few days to one of the tent cities, possibly the main one on Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard.

The committee headed by Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg is expected to discuss over the weeks to come various proposals to change national budget priorities and the tax structure, to expand access to social services, to increase competition in consumer goods and services markets and to implement laws and programs aimed at reducing housing costs.

Netanyahu has made it clear to Trajtenberg that the committee does not have the authority to violate the parameters of the current state budget, which covers both 2011 and 2012.

The Trajtenberg committee is drafting an announcement, to be published within a few days, calling on the public to submit ideas and proposals. Some respondents will be invited to address the committee’s subcommittees personally, in hearings that will be broadcast live on an Internet site created for this purpose. The remaining suggestions from the public will be collected and submitted in writing to the relevant subcommittees.

The subcommittees comprise the taxation team, led by the head of the National Economic Council, Prof. Eugene Kandel; the competitiveness and cost-of-living group, headed by Dr. Shlomi Parizat, chief economist at the Israel Antitrust Authority; the social services subcommittee, headed by Finance Ministry budget director Gal Hershkovitz; and the housing team, headed by Eyal Gabbai, director general of the Prime Minister’s Office.

The committee promises that questions submitted through its website will be answered within 24 hours.

In related news, yesterday leaders of the protest movement said they would resist any attempt by local authorities or the police to evacuate any of the protest tent encampments around the country. Attorneys have been providing pro bono counsel to protest organizers, advising them on ways to counter attempts to evict them from the tent cities.

On Friday Haaretz reported that the Israel Police are making preparations to evacuate the tent encampments by force and gathering information about the scope of the protesters’ activities in dozens of encampments.

“It would be unresponsible to evacuate the tent encampments now,” said Yigal Rambam, one of the organizers of the protest movement. “This is a very legitimate protest that in effect protects the public order and has unanimous public support. To evacuate the tents would only underline the fact that the regime and the government don’t understand the forces ranged against them and the depth of the ‘roar’ of the people,” Rambam said.

In the past few days municipal authorities in cities including Tel Aviv, Holon, Ramat Gan, Yehud and Beit Shemesh have issued eviction or demolition orders for structures in the encampments, as well as fines to tenters. On Friday Tel Aviv city inspectors ordered the removal of a lean-to being used as a kitchen and storage area for the Nordau Boulevard tent city.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel has appealed to several mayors over the past few days, asking that they not remove the tent encampments in their jurisdictions.