Israel's Social Protest Leaders Form Own Expert Team

Protesters' formation of expert team coincides with first meeting of Netanyahu's Team for Socio-economic Change; about 200 people protest rising electricity tariffs outside PM's residence in Jerusalem.

Leaders of the social protests met in Tel Aviv on Tuesday night with a group of experts in the fields of economics, society, housing, education, transport and the environment, to discuss possible solutions to the social problems facing Israel.

In attendance at the meeting were – among others - Prof. Leah Achdut, Prof. Avia Spivak, Prof. Yossi Yonah, Dr. Yossi Dahan and social activist Yoav Krime. One of the social protest organizers, Stav Shafir, said this group of experts was a sort of alternative for the Team for Socio-economic Change, established by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and headed by Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg, Chairman of the Planning and Budgeting Committee of the Council for Higher Education.

Yisrael Katz, Tel Aviv housing protest, social protest
David Bachar

Earlier on Tuesday night, the social protest leaders sent a letter to Netanyahu, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Housing and Construction Minister Ariel Atias, requesting they "cease taking unilateral steps". In the letter, signed by National Student Association chairman Itzik Shmuli and the Dror Israel movement head Pesach Hoffster, the protesters claim the government is projecting an atmosphere of dialogue, whilst the Housing and Construction Ministry simultaneously advances "decisions that unclear in their nature and purpose."

The activists added that "if it is the government's intention to hold a true dialogue with the protests' representatives, it must stop any unilateral steps that is a precondition for a true discussion."

Also on Tuesday evening, Israel Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz visited the tent encampment in Tel Aviv, whilst in Jerusalem, about 200 people protested outside the Prime Minister's residence against rising electricity tariffs. The protesters, who marched from their tent encampment in Jerusalem's Menorah Park to the Prime Minister's residence, held torches and called out, "The people take to the streets at night, Bibi turns off the light".

Also on Tuesday, the Team for Socio-economic Change met for the first time. The panel discussed work schedules, division into teams and areas of responsibilities. It decided to set up an "infrastructure for dialogue" that will include discussions with protesters over the Internet. Michael Eitan, Minister for the Improvement of Government Services, was tasked with the Internet initiative. The panel is scheduled to convene again next Tuesday.