The defense budget will be cut significantly as part of the government’s solution to easing the high cost of living, Prime Minister’s Office director-general Eyal Gabai said on Wednesday.

“There must be a cut to the defense budget, and the prime minister and defense and finance ministers also agree on this,” Gabai said during a panel discussion at the business daily Calcalist’s annual conference in Tel Aviv.

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Gabai told the audience that a ritual takes place every July in which senior defense establishment officials cry out about new threats from the enemy in order to obtain more funds. But he added that the emphasis on defense would decrease now that the Trajtenberg Committee on Socioeconomic Change is redefining national priorities.

Gabai was sitting on a panel alongside Osem CEO Gezi Kaplan, National Union of Israeli Students chairman Itzik Shmuli and several others, where they discussed the topic on everyone’s lips: the cost of living.

Kaplan addressed the recent flurry of articles in the media about executive salaries, admitting his wage was “even over the top in relation to the current reality in Israeli society.

“The average executive wage rose by more than NIS 2.5 million from 2003 to 2005,” he said. “And publication of executive wages in a competitive market leads in practice to disproportionate increases in salaries.

People place values on themselves based on how much they earn, regardless of which sector they are in.”

Shmuli said the country’s best young minds had lost faith in the ability of the political system to change things. The Trajtenberg Committee must offer “solutions that the people of Israel want to see,” he said.

“I told [Prof. Manuel] Trajtenberg that if his mandate limits him, then I hope that he will find within himself the Cordoba revolutionary [Che Guevara] and not the Harvard economist, and stand before the prime minister with courage,” Shmuli said.

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