Protest leaders Dafni Leef, Stav Shafir 311.
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Leaders of the J14 social justice movement on Tuesday threatened to take to the streets again, issuing a harsh rebuke of the findings of the Trajtenberg Committee for Socioeconomic Change.
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Calling the recommendations of the committee not nearly enough to answer their demands, J14 demanded that the government produce a new state budget with a greater focus on social issues.
Speaking at a press conference in Tel Aviv, Daphni Leef, who launched the nationwide protest movement on July 14, said, “Yesterday, we the citizens of Israel received the answer of the State of Israel to our demands... What did we get? What did we receive? I don’t want to make fun of the committee even though it’s called for, because this committee made a joke of us.
“If there’s one thing we’ve made clear over recent months it is that we’re fed up with being laughed at. We won’t be taken for granted anymore,” she said. “We asked for a root canal, and we were given a teeth cleaning.”
Leef told Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu he has a month to present “real and serious recommendations” to handle the social issues driving the movement, or else “on October 29, just before the Knesset returns to session, we will take to the streets in full force. This year we will take the country back into our hands, rock and roll.”
The attendees at the press conference then began chanting: “The people demand a social budget.”
Leef said she had read through the committee’s recommendations and didn’t find anything that helped the weakest segments of society, in particular single mothers, the homeless and temporary workers.
“The summer of 2011 has ended, but our struggle continues. The people, in case anyone forgot, demand social justice. The people didn’t stop [demanding this], and won’t stop. Social justice means a just national budget, the strengthening of the weakest sectors and the strengthening of society as a whole. We are demanding a new, just and social national budget, one that first off helps the weakest sector, and will also help the middle class. When the weak get weaker, we will all get weaker.”
When asked if the protest leaders intend to enter the world of politics with the cachet their movement has produced, Leef said, “What we learned this summer is that the citizen is the one with power.
There is no reason to enter politics, there is a very massive power with the citizens, and we have already voted with our feet and we will vote with our feet again.”
Formed in August, the Trajtenberg Committee issued its recommendations to the government and the public on Monday. Central to its recommendations is NIS 30 billion to be spent over the next five years toward achieving socioeconomic change, the lion’s share to go toward education.
Spanning 267 pages, the report recommended changes in housing, social services, competition, taxes and the cost of living.
Leef and fellow protest leaders were joined on Tuesday by two members of the team of experts that they have worked with to develop an alternative set of recommendations for the government.
Prof. Yossi Yonah of Ben- Gurion University of the Negev’s Department of Education, a member of the team, called for a systematic increase in government spending on social services, “as is accepted in developed countries.” Yonah said that such a move would require breaking the 2012 state budget framework.
Prof. Avia Spivak of BGU, a former deputy governor of the Bank of Israel, spoke of what he said are the exorbitant prices paid by Israelis and how increasing government spending will not harm the economy.
Spivak described the current situation as neither brought on by the laws of nature nor a tsunami.
“It is a situation we have created with our own hands.
Someone fell asleep at the wheel and we are here to say: Yes We Can! “Trajtenberg said NIS 4b. will be used for social issues.
This sounds like a great deal to someone who doesn’t know the figures, until he realizes that the national budget is NIS 270b. per year,” Spivak said.
The social movement’s alternative team of experts handed out a paper in which they said that the Trajtenberg recommendations “support the continuation of the policies that created the crisis and if carried out will worsen the crisis.”
The alternative team’s paper says that the committee did not present ways for the state to ensure housing as a basic right, increase public housing, or close gaps between the periphery and the Center. It also said that the committee did not deal with the housing issues facing the Arab public, the current privatization of land in Israel, or mortgage policies.