Special Panel to Talk to Israel's Housing Protesters Online

Team for Socio-economic Change appointed by Netanyahu seeks to 'translate public sentiment into action'; city inspectors dismantle tents in a number of Tel Aviv encampments.

The Team for Socio-economic Change appointed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reduce the soaring cost of living in Israel met for the first time Tuesday. The panel, headed by Professor Manuel Trajtenberg, Chairman of the Planning and Budgeting Committee of the Council for Higher Education, discussed work schedules, division into teams and areas of responsibilities.

The panel decided to set up "infrastructure for dialogue," which will include a dialogue with the 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.

At the start of the meeting Professor Trajtenberg presented the panel's goals, which include "translating the public sentiments into a professional understanding and political action." Among the teams that will be set up are a tax teams, a competition and living costs team, a social services team and a housing team.

"This is an exciting moment," Professor Trajtenberg said, "It is also one of the hardest days in the Hebrew calendar. But beyond destruction, it also symbolizes a new beginning for the Jewish people." Trajtenberg added that "this wave of protests expresses a yearning for something tangible called social justice."

Meanwhile, Tel Aviv municipality inspectors arrived at a number of 'tent city' locations on Tuesday, requesting that unused tents be dismantled. In addition, the inspectors even confiscated a few tents from Ben Gurion and Chen Boulevards, claiming they had been out of use for a long time.

Social protesters present at the tent encampment claimed that the tents dismantled by the city inspectors were actually in use at night, but not during the day, when most members of the protest are at work.

Meanwhile, police arrested on Tuesday the main organizer of the Ethiopian Jews' tent compound in Gan Levinsky in south Tel Aviv, on suspicion of attacking a policewoman. The activists in the encampment claim the police officers targeted him for no reason and deny he used violence.

Kobi Shahar, one of the activists, said that the incident was meant to cause divisions among the protesters. "The basic 'divide and conquer' here is between black and white," he said. "They are very afraid of black and white uniting, and we Ethiopians know it."