Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg.
(photo credit: Mark Neiman / GPO)
As the first autumn rains begin to fall and this past summer’s protesters have
little choice but to roll up the canvas of the remaining tent cities, it seems
eerily timely that the government-appointed Trajtenberg Committee, which was
tasked with addressing the myriad of socioeconomic complaints put forth by the
summer’s mass protests, is gearing up to http://www.jpost.com/DiplomacyAndPolitics/Article.aspx?id=239512
On Saturday morning, one of the main protest movement’s leaders,
Stav Shaffir, reported on her Facebook page that she had spent the night helping
the remaining residents of Holon’s tent city mop up and rescue their belongings
as the first rains fell.
She called on her followers – now reaching into
the thousands – to help out by donating household and other useful items to
those who “have no homes to go to.”
While there is no doubt that her
new-found clout will help these people to some extent, the question now is
whether Trajtenberg will be able to come up with the goods to help the hundreds
of thousands of other Israelis who – although not completely destitute or
homeless – still struggle to live in dignity or earn with pride in this
The committee’s task is not easy and on Sunday its head, Prof.
Manuel Trajtenberg, wrote on the panel’s official blog: “There is no doubt that
we could not offer a solution to all the problems that were raised, or even most
It is true that the demands for action were far-reaching and
touched on issues as wide-ranging as affordable housing, free educational
frameworks from birth, less tax on some basic necessities and, most importantly,
more government action to reduce the gaps between rich and poor and to address
social justice in general.
Already snippets from Trajtenberg’s committee
have created a storm of debates on whether those appointed will simply attempt
to appease the people by providing a symbolic report, or whether what has been
called the largest social protests in Israel’s history have been enough to tip
the government’s agenda from defense to socioeconomic matters.
behind the summer’s protests are cynical – they say that Trajtenberg does not
have a mandate to bring about profound socioeconomic changes.
Leef, another of the social protest movement’s leaders, responded recently that
if the committee’s leaked recommendations are in fact true, then “it certainly
does not address the reasons why hundreds of thousands of people took to the
streets to protest during the summer.”
She added: “these conclusions do
not constitute a real and marked change in the desired direction.”
Friday, in what was touted as the first Social Congress in Tel Aviv, Leef and
her supporters vowed to continue fighting until the government creates a new
social budget for 2012.
In addition, women’s-rights groups and
middle-class families who led the concurrent “buggy” protests, which focused on
a demand for free pre-school education and reduced taxes on certain household
necessities, also expressed disappointment at the rumored recommendations,
saying that free educational frameworks from the age of four is simply avoiding
the core of the problems faced by young working families.
cynicism, economic and political experts do believe that the social protests
were enough to cause a significant shift in the government’s political
“This report could bring some serious and significant reforms on
how the economy is run,” said one expert. “This government might not be
capitalist, only Bibi is – but really, if his main goal is being reelected then
he had better take note of what happened this summer.”
Others have said
that if the government does not go far enough to appease the public and generate
enough socioeconomic reforms, then regardless of security developments that may
arise from the Palestinian UN statehood bid, it will certainly face trouble in
the next elections.
While there is no doubt that Trajtenberg will go some
way in addressing the economic hardships that most Israelis, middle class and
downwards, experience on a daily basis, it seems obvious – if only at
Trajtenberg’s own admission – that there is no way to fully address society’s
problems on a level that is deep enough to make a real change.
remains to be seen now is whether the protesters – who were so successful in
galvanizing an apathetic public into speaking out – will be able to keep up the
momentum and keep up the pressure for social change, even if the coming rains
mean no more tent cities.