Sunday, July 31, 2011

SuperTanker in action - Netanyahu appoints task force to address protesters' demands

(IsraelHayom).Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Sunday the creation of a team of ministers charged with formulating policies to improve the standard of living of Israel's middle class. The team will conduct discussions with a variety of experts and stakeholders, including the leaders of the protests that have rocked Israel over the past two weeks.

"We are now in the midst of a complicated and challenging reality, both internationally and domestically, in the face of which the government must act responsibly and sagaciously. It must take proper and responsible steps and avoid irresponsible ones," Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday morning.

Netanyahu added that the government needed to change its list of priorities in order to deal with the "with the genuine claims and distress," while avoiding "irresponsible, hasty and populist steps that are liable to cause the country to deteriorate into the situation of certain European countries, which are on the verge of bankruptcy and large-scale unemployment."

To this end, Netanyahu said he would appoint a special team of ministers and experts that will propose a responsible and practical plan to alleviate Israelis' economic burden. "I ask the team to open a roundtable, to invite representatives of various groups and sectors, to hear ideas, to hear claims and to hear solutions, and afterwards to submit a plan for implementation to the cabinet and to myself, which we will implement in order to alleviate Israelis' economic burden."

The team of ministers appointed Sunday by the prime minister will examine methods such as reducing indirect taxation. He added that the newly-appointed team would meet with a variety of experts and stakeholders, including the leaders of the protests, in order to come up with solutions to the country's socioeconomic distress.

Deputy Knesset Speaker Ofir Akunis said Sunday that the team's work would be prolonged and measured.

Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom suggested that budgets should be shifted from defense-related areas to purposes such as welfare and education. "It is inconceivable that the Defense Ministry has requested that its budget be supplemented four times since the budget was approved," he said.

Another committee set up by the prime minister to examine economic concentration in Israel was expected to present its findings Sunday. The committee was originally planning to publish its report in September, but moved up the timetable due to the protests.

The government is also hoping to head off a rise in the price of gasoline, which was scheduled to go into effect Saturday night. Netanyahu plans to create a special team to negotiate with the protesters in order to find an acceptable solution to the housing crisis and the rising cost of living.