Netanyahu Vows to Ease Economic Burden on Israeli Citizens

PM presented with list of 14-member panel, headed by Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg, which will engage in dialogue with protesters demanding social reforms.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to ease the economic burden on Israeli citizens as he was presented Monday with the list of experts who will comprise a panel to engage in dialogue with representatives of the popular protests currently sweeping Israel.

The team will appoint 14 permanent members, five of whom are academics from the private sector. In addition to the permanent members, there will be eight external advisers.

Netanyahu, Trajtenberg panel
Amos Ben-Gershom

The Prime Minister's Office announced that the name of the panel, which will be lead by Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg, who formerly headed the government's economic advisory council, will be "The panel for socioeconomic change."

Netanyahu told Trajtenberg he is willing "to make a change in priorities in order to ease the burden falling upon the citizen," and that he intends to give the expert panel tools to do so.

The panel will begin discussions this week, including some meetings with the leaders of the popular protests.

Trajtenberg's panel will submit proposals for reform to the socioeconomic cabinet by the end of September. That body, headed by Steinitz, will review the ideas and submit its own recommendations to Netanyahu by the end of October. Netanyahu may make additional changes, after which he will submit a final draft to the cabinet for approval. That is supposed to happen in late October or early November.

Among the panel's members are senior government officials, including the director-general of the Prime Minister's Office, Eyal Gabai, the head of the National Economic Council, Eugene Kandel, budget chief at the Finance Ministry, Gal Hershkovitz, the finance minister's senior economic adviser Dr. Avi Simhon, the Finance Ministry's accountant general Michal Abadi-Boiangiu, National Insurance Institute Director General Esther Dominisini, Antitrust Authority chief economist Dr. Shlomi Frizet and Bank of Israel deputy governor Dr. Karnit Flug.

In addition the panel will include five experts from the academia and private sector, headed by leading expert in the taxation industry Dr. Yoram Gabbay of Hebrew University Maurice Falk Institute for Economic Research in Israel, and also including social entrepreneur Shahar Cohen, Israel Prize Laureate in education for 2011 Prof. Pnina Klein, Vice-President of the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya Prof. Rafi Melnik and economist Dr. Tali Regev of Tel Aviv University.

In addition to the permanent members on the panel are external advisers, including Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry Director General Sharon Kedmi, Tax Authority chairman Yehuda Nasradishi, Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics chief scientist Dmitri Romanov, General Director of the Authority for the Economic Development of Minorities at the Prime Minister's Office Ayman Seif, Founder and President of the Reut Institute Gidi Grinstein, Deputy Director-General for Planning and Information at The Council for Higher Education Gadi Frank, former antitrust commissioner Dror Strum, former National Insurance Institute director general Yochanan Steseman who now heads a special ministry committee to plan a national geriatric system at Hadassah University Hospital, Mt. Scopus, Jerusalem.

Netanyahu said that Trajtenberg's panel will submit recommendations on the following issues: "One, a change in priorities, with the goal of easing the economic burdens on Israel's citizens. Two, a change in the mix of tax payments. Three, expanding access to social services. Four, increasing competition and efficiency in the goods and services markets, with the goal of reducing prices. Five, implementing the housing plan we've already launched."

"The panel's recommendations will reflect the need to maintain fiscal responsibility in the state budget," he added. "Such responsibility is especially necessary at a time of economic uncertainty."