Students disrupt Steinitz speech, one arrested

Finance Minister calls for defense budget to be transparent at annual Sderot Conference for Society.

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz 311 R (photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz 311 R
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
A keynote speech by Minister of Finance Yuval Steinitz at the opening of the annual Sderot Conference for Society on Tuesday was disrupted several times by students angry over the government’s failure to adequately address social justice issues raised in mass public protests this past summer.
As the minister began speaking, students heckled from the back of the hall calling angrily for better conditions for contract workers and more attention to employment options for those living in the periphery.
RELATED:Steinitz calls for cuts in defense budget
One of men was arrested for threatening the minister, calling out: “You might not be around in 2013, we know where you live.”
Slightly riled by the interruptions, Steinitz responded to the protesters that it was he who had improved the benefits for doctors living and working in the periphery. Later on he also referred to the conditions facing contracted workers – who recently caused the Histadrut Labor Union to take strike action – promising to improve their conditions significantly.
“In order for us to properly take care of society, we need a strong economy that grows and creates employment,” said Steinitz addressing the crowd. “We have to do what we can to stop mass unemployment.”
He continued: “The global economic crisis is not only an economic crisis it is also a social one.”
“The average salary in the US has been reduced in the last two years by 10 percent, when there is a recession it is not only the unemployed that suffer but also those who are working,” said Steinitz.
The minister also made reference to the defense budget, which over the past few months has faced a possible reduction.
“As a former chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee [in the Knesset], I believe in increasing the defense budget,” stated Steinitz. “However, everything has to be justified. At the treasury we are asking for more transparency in the defense budget in order to find a way to save NIS 12 billion a year.”
He added: “This is not cutting the defense budget but ensuring it does not run over. There was supposed to be an addition of NIS 31 billion over the next five years with a further NIS 43 billion in extra costs.”
This is the eighth annual Sderot Conference examining social and economic issues facing Israeli society. Held at Sapir College in Sderot as an attempt to move the focus of lawmakers from the center of the country to the periphery, the conference attracts high profile politicians, academics and social activists to debate social issues.
Several of the Knesset’s parliamentarian committees were held at the conference Tuesday. The event continues through Wednesday.