August 7, 2011
Committee to review protesters’ demands set up after mass demonstration
Israel’s prime minister established a committee to examine the demands of leaders of the social justice protest movement following one of the largest demonstrations in Israel’s history.
An estimated 300,000 demonstrators protesting the rising costs of living gathered in Tel Aviv Saturday night, with another 20,000 protesting in Jerusalem, and several thousand others in cities throughout the country. It was the third such demonstration - and the largest - since the protests began more than three weeks ago. Protesters chanted, among other slogans, “The people demand social justice” and “An entire generation demands a future.”
Israeli musicians Shlomo Artzi, Rita and Yehudit Ravitz entertained the demonstrators, who also heard speeches from Daphne Leef, founder of the movement, and Rabbi Benny Lau, founder of the Beit Morasha social justice institute.
“If I could I would show you how people have demanded social justice since the origin of Judaism,” Lau told the crowd Saturday night.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday morning announced the formation of a 15-member professional committee to review the demands of the social justice movement and to submit proposals for social and economic reform in the next month. The committee is headed by Professor Manuel Trachtenberg, chairman of the National Economic Council, and made up of Cabinet ministers, observers and economic experts.
Protest leaders have already decried the committee, saying that they are looking for direct dialogue with Netanyahu.
Netanyahu announced the formation of the committee on Sunday, at the start of the regular weekly Cabinet meeting.
“We are aware of the fact that working couples with children are finding it difficult to finish the month. We recognize the plight of students who cannot pay their rent. We are aware of the distress of the residents of neighborhoods, of discharged soldiers and others. We want to provide genuine solutions,” Netanyahu said.
He acknowledged that the committee’s proposals will not please everybody but pledged: “We will listen to everyone. We will speak with everyone. We will hold a genuine dialogue, not pressured and perfunctory, but we will really listen both to the distress and to the proposals for solutions. In the end, we will consider practical solutions. Practical solutions require choices. They also require balance.”