Finance C'tee chair vows bill based on Trajtenberg findings

Economic affairs committee head calls report "good foundation" but defends government for not approving it in full.

MK Moshe Gafni 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
MK Moshe Gafni 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Knesset Finance Committee chairman Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) promised Tuesday to push ahead with a bill based on the Trajtenberg Report without waiting for the government’s approval.
“There are some things I agree with and some things I disagree with [in the report],” Gafni said.
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“We are going to discuss this and prepare this law, regardless of what the government says. We may make decisions about reforms in taxation.”
The Knesset committee held a lengthy discussion on the report one day after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu delayed a cabinet vote on the matter due to protest from within coalition ranks. The 267-page report on socioeconomic change outlines budget allocations intended to address grievances raised by summer-long protests for “social justice.”
At least 30 members of Knesset attended the discussion in a packed committee headquarters. Protest leaders Stav Shaffir and Itzik Shmuli, Manufacturers Association chief Shraga Brosh and National Economic Council head Eugene Kandel all spoke.
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin told the committee that the Israeli public must not be ignored, but added that once all is said and done, it is up to the government and the Knesset to decide what action must be taken. He called Trajtenberg “a volunteer for the nation,” although he said some parts of the report must be examined before decisions are made.
Addressing the report’s recommendation that NIS 2.5 billion be cut from the yearly defense budget, Rivlin said, “This does not promote the essential interests of the State of Israel, nor will it help our budget. In my opinion, the defense budget requires deep discussion and study on a strategic, and not a budgetary, level.”
Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg said the report was “a clear mandate to lower the cost of living” and urged the government to pass it. He blamed the high cost of living on government policy of the last decade, which he said failed to remove barriers to competition and allowed the creation of “great monopolistic forces.”
MK Ruhama Avraham-Balila (Kadima) thanked the members of the Trajtenberg Committee for investing their time, but argued that they could not act as legislators and could not serve as replacements for what she called Netanyahu’s evasion of responsibility.
“The protests proved that what Israel needs is social justice now. It needs real supervision of the cost of living, an appropriate health system, an equal opportunity for all and a real solution to the housing crisis.
In the past two years, and yesterday especially, we have been witness to weak leadership,” she said.
Avraham-Balila called for a new budget with redefined priorities, which distributes money not just to the middle class but also to the lower class.
Avraham-Balila said, “The [Trajtenberg] committee ignored 1.5 million families living under the poverty line. The mandate given to the committee had its wings clipped from the start. Social justice is firstly about unconditional rights like housing, health, education and nutritional security. The government must enact a basic law on social rights and only then will it show it is serious about socioeconomic change.” The Knesset Economic Affairs Committee discussion on the report was postponed, with committee chairman MK Carmel Shama-Hacohen (Likud) citing the delayed cabinet vote, the possibility that amendments will be made to the report, and the fact that Prof. Trajtenberg could not speak in detail as to the reasons for his decision.
However, Shama-Hacohen did speak at the finance committee meeting, where he called the report “a good foundation” for change but added that it was a good thing the government did not approve the report in full as it would allow for changes and additions to be made.