Benjamin Netanyahu
Photo: Eli Mendelbaum
Mass rally Saturday in Tel Aviv
Photo: EPA

Likud puzzled by PM's social team

Party sources deem Netanyahu's decision to name 18 cabinet members to social team tasked with resolving public unrest counterproductive; protest leaders express skepticism, say team 'a mirage'

Senior sources in the Likud questioned on Sunday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to name over a dozen socioeconomic cabinet members to a "social team" tasked with resolving the growing social unrest.


Earlier Sunday, Netanyahu announced 15 ministers, as well as observers and economic experts, will participate in government teams which will negotiate with the leaders of the various nationwide protests.



Several sources within the Likud said the decision, or rather the scope of the appointments, was puzzling and possibly counterproductive.


The sources predicted the negotiations will mandate changes to the State budget, which will reflect the social changes demanded by the public.


"It's unclear how a small committee that was supposed to come up with rapid solutions for specific problems turned into such an extensive forum," a senior source told Ynet. "It's doubtful that the committee would be able to come up with any real solutions.


"Netanyahu promised a small committee, but eventually decided to avoid potential political conflicts – he was pressured by many ministers who complained that they were excluded from the committee, and it came at the expense of the committee's goals," he added.


Other senior sources in the Likud noted that Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz' possible chairing of the committee was the proverbial red flag for the protest leaders, which was why Netanyahu eventually decided to deny him the position.


A minister privy to the decision warned that if the committee failed to devise practical solutions, the Likud "will pay for it in the ballots."

'We have the public's support.' Saturday's rally (Photo: Reuters)


'PM peddling a mirage'

Netanyahu's announcement received a rather cold welcome by leaders of the protest movement as well, who expressed skepticism as to the multi-minister team's effectiveness, saying they were being presented with "a mirage."


"Yesterday's optimism was replaced this morning with pessimism because the government doesn’t understand this significant moment – a moment in which they can regain the public's trust in the political system," one of the protest leaders said. 


The protest movements' leadership, including representatives of social organizations, heads of the National Student Union and leaders of the tent protest gathered for the fifth time Sunday morning to draft a list of demands to present to the government.


"After what the media called a difficult week for the protest movement, we proved that we have the public's support," said Chairman of the National Student Union Itzik Shmueli.


Commenting on the special team of ministers, Shmueli said: "Brigades of students will not take control of the Knesset and social activists will not go head-to-head with the government, but I am concerned about the size of the committee, which will make it very difficult for us to reach actual results."


Shmueli said the leadership continues to urge protesters to avoid violence. "It's easy to compare what happened in the world – and especially in Arab countries – to us, but this comparison is not accurate," he noted.

The Tel Aviv protest (Photo: AP)


"Instead of saying that he understands the public's message and will overhaul the failed economic system, we receive an announcement about a huge super-duper team that is being established, but no one knows when it will begin operating or what its mandate is," said Dror Israel Movement Chairman Pesach Hauspeter.


Tent protest representative, Barak Segal, also slammed the prime minister's move, saying: "We believe that we are being presented with a mirage; last week we begged Netanyahu to postpone the vote on the national housing committees' bill. If he really wanted to talk to us, he should have gained the trust of the people," he said.


Still, sources in the Likud, including some of Netanyahu's close associates, were cautiously optimistic on Sunday, saying it was possible that the protest will start to die down.


"I dare them to mount another demonstration like Saturday's," a party source said. "Right now, the leaders of the protest are discordant – they're fighting about everything. It's highly unlikely they would be able to bring about such a turnout again."


Yoav Zitun contributed to this report



פרסום ראשון: 08.07.11, 19:18
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