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Netanyahu: Israel creating new financial team after massive protests

By Guy Azriel, CNN
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Israelis demand social justice
  • Netanyahu: A new financial team will focus on reducing Israel's cost of living
  • "We want to give real solutions and we will do so," the prime minister says
  • His announcement comes after more than a quarter of a million demonstrators protest
  • Demonstrators say financial reforms in Israel have squeezed the middle class

Jerusalem (CNN) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced details about a new financial team Sunday, a day after more than a quarter of a million demonstrators took to the streets protesting the rising cost of living in the Jewish state.

"In the recent weeks we have been witnessing a public protest that expresses our real distress," Netanyahu said at the opening of his weekly Cabinet meeting. "We cannot and we shouldn't ignore the voices coming out of the public, we want to give real solutions and we will do so."

The economic team -- comprised of government officials and professionals outside the administration -- will focus on reducing the cost of living and changing the country's economic priorities, Netanyahu said.

Officials have not specified the committee's full membership roster, but Netanyahu said Sunday that Manuel Trajtenberg, a professor at Tel Aviv University and the former chief of Isreal's National Economic Council, would head the team.

The group will examine reducing taxes, improving access to social services and increasing market competitiveness, Netanyahu said.

They are scheduled to present recommendations to Netanyahu in September.

The committee's creation comes after hundreds of thousands of Israelis called for the government to rethink financial reforms that they say have squeezed the middle class.

"It's hard to raise children, it is very hard to find suitable apartments. You just cannot suffer anymore, you just have to come to the streets and protest," Noga Klinger, a protester, told CNN.

Marching under the slogan, "the people ask for social justice," students, young families and older Israelis protested in several major cities across Israel Saturday night, the largest in Tel Aviv. One protester in told CNN that he believes after Saturday night's protest the government "will have to take us seriously."

It is unclear whether the moves announced by Netanyahu will be enough to satisfy the growing protest movement.

Netanyahu explained that the recommendations of the team will express the need to maintain fiscal responsibility in the budget. Speaking in reference to the downgrading of U.S. credit rating, and in light of growing financial uncertainty in Europe he stressed that his government "must act under financial responsibility while making repairs that express social sensitivity."

Netanyahu said he planned to hold a broad dialogue with the demonstrators, but added "we cannot please them all."