Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told members of the Knesset Finance Committee
on Monday that he has instructed the Trajtenberg committee – tasked with
responding to the ongoing housing and cost-of-living protests – to find
solutions to socioeconomic problems, while safeguarding economic
“Israelis are struggling to finish the month and socioeconomic
gaps are growing,” Netanyahu told the committee members during a meeting in his
Trajtenberg makes surprise visit to TA tent camp
PM: Housing crisis solutions must not bankrupt country
“The aim is to reduce the gaps and to ease the burden
on society, particularly on the middle classes, while safeguarding the economy
and maintaining financial stability.
“We must not break out of the
[current economic] framework,” he added. “It is possible to protect the economy
while also finding solutions. If we safeguard the economy, we will protect the
state and can therefore solve problems and prevent financial
Netanyahu said the establishment of the Trajtenberg
committee presented a major opportunity to deal with market failures and
implement “a big change.”
He said the committee needed more than just a
couple of days to present its findings, but that “it can be done within several
“I want to make a real change here and to manufacture the right
balance between the economy and society,” the prime minister said.
top of the global economic troubles, Israel has its own specific problems,” he
added, listing housing, taxation and cartels as the main issues his government
would have to deal with.
The prime minister’s bureau issued a statement
on Monday evening saying that in an economics discussion at his bureau earlier
in the day, Netanyahu said that just as “the government I head adopted the
recommendations of the Sheshinski Committee [on the state’s share of natural gas
discoveries off the coast], I am certain the government will adopt the
recommendations of the Trajtenberg committee, in which we place our full
At the Finance Committee meeting, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin
called for things to be put in perspective. “Our economic turbulence is still
minimal compared to what is happening in the rest of the world,” he
Rivlin added, “We must deal with the public’s demands while keeping
a meticulous eye on the situation of the Israeli economy. We are all responsible
to the state even though each one of us represents the public and takes care of
those who got them into the Knesset.
But first of all we have a
responsibility to the economy, to the state, and within that, we must find a
solution to the social troubles.”
Meanwhile, an “alternative team of
experts” vowed to work to create a better and more just Israeli society and
economy, during a press conference on Monday in which they announced the launch
of their work.
Billed as an alternative to the 22- member subcommittee
headed by Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg, appointed by the prime minister last week,
the team of experts includes more than 60 academics, economists and public
leaders who will work independently to find solutions to the social issues
facing the country.
The team is not employed and was not appointed by the
tent-city protest movement, but on Monday representatives said that they will
work to assist and counsel the protest leaders as much as possible.
Yossi Yonah, associate lecturer in the Department of Education at Ben- Gurion
University of the Negev in Beersheba, told the press conference that “we need to
change the process in Israel... which has spun out of control.
have forgotten what the purpose of the economy is. It is supposed to serve the
society; the society is not there in order to serve the economy.”
said the group had not been formed out of any frustration toward the protest
leaders, who have been criticized for not issuing a clear, detailed set of
“We respect their independence.
They are taking part in
intensive meetings and discussions,” he said. “They are the leaders of the
struggle, and they can adopt the things that we suggest if they want. We are
here to help them.”
He said the “alternative team of experts” was not
appointed by the protest leaders or employed by them, and that the they are
working independently, searching for advice and solutions that they can offer to
the protest movement.
Team member Adina Bar-Shalom, the eldest daughter
of Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and the president of the Haredi
College of Jerusalem, said she decided to speak at the press conference because
“the social protests are for everyone; religious and secular,
“The protest is helping us develop a more just society that
looks after the other,” she said. “I am here in order to help raise the voice of
all those who have trouble feeding their families. I’m here to help those
families who have trouble finding a quality education for their
Bar-Shalom said the problems that are driving the social
justice protests are dealing with issues affecting both ultra- Orthodox and
Trajtenberg released a YouTube video in which he
praised the group of experts, and said that he would listen to their
In the video, Trajtenberg said, “I was very happy to hear
that a group of economists, academics and sociologists was founded in order to
think about solutions for the protest. I have always said, and will repeat, that
no one has a monopoly on wisdom or on the knowledge and figures needed to deal
with this complicated situation.”
He said he is personally familiar with
and respects many of the people on the team and will be happy to take their
advice and discuss with them the ideas they come up with.
night, Trajtenberg paid a surprise visit to the tent city at north Tel Aviv’s
Hamedina Square, where he held spoke with and listened to
While he was largely praised for the visit, some criticized
him for visiting Tel Aviv’s smallest tent city, and one that is far from the
heart of the movement on Rothschild Boulevard.
Almost immediately after
Monday’s press conference, Itzik Shmuli, head of the National Union of Israeli
Students, told reporters at the headquarters of the union in Tel Aviv that the
protest movement is only interested in dialogue with the government that leads
to concrete solutions.
“We aren’t holding protests for the sake of
protests, and we don’t expect the government to hold a dialogue [with us] just
for the sake of dialogue.”
He vowed that if at the first meeting with the
prime minister or with the Trajtenberg committee, they see that it is only
“dialogue for the sake of dialogue,” they will walk out.
“We need to see
if the government is talking about a change in the daily agenda of the country
and its priorities.
Are they talking about what we’re talking about;
greater welfare in the fields of employment, housing, health and education, not
only in the Center but in the periphery as well? “We also want to know where the
money will come from,” he added, saying the students would not agree to a plan
that saw funding for one sector of society being taken to help
“We already know this trick. We are not in this game to take
from one person in order to give money to others.”