Alternative experts panel vows to address Israel's 'unacceptable' economic policy
Team of some 60 academics and public figures vows to present practical possibilities for changing priorities; team's leaders current economic policy causes 'widespread and shameful' poverty.
The alternative team of experts who will draw up a new socioeconomic policy, separate from the panel established by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu under Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg, presented themselves for the first time at a press conference in Tel Aviv on Monday.
The team, put together by the leaders of Israel's social protests, is made up of some 60 academics and public figures, and is divided into nine sub-units. Their work will be coordinated by Prof. Avia Spivak, former deputy Bank of Israel governor, and education professor Yossi Yonah of Ben-Gurion University.
“Much like the loud call from the tent protest sites, we are also sure that something has been lost, that something has gone out of control,” Yonah told journalists in Tel Aviv on Monday. “We also think that our leaders have forgotten what the economy is for, and has ignored the fact the role of the economy is to serve the nation,” he said.
“A Banana Republic is developing before our astonished eyes. The voice that is coming up from the tent protest cities is loud and clear. Good economic policy is not only measured in terms of GDP per capita, low inflation or reduction in unemployment rates,” he added.
“Policy that causes the widespread and shameful phenomenon of poor workers is unacceptable. Economic policy that steals hope from young couples to build and be built in Israel is a policy that must be eradicated. We are beginning our work in one of the most beautiful and promising moments in the history of Israeli society,” he said.
“The committee that we have established here is not in opposition to (Netanyahu’s committee led by) Trajtenberg. We do not ask for these things of Trajtenberg, we asks these things of the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister, so that they will let Trajtenberg’s committee make the change,” said Professor Spivak, the second expert coordinating the work of the alternative body.
“This team operates independently, we do not serve anyone, but we will give advice to anybody who wants it,” he added.
Some of the teams’ units have already held their first working meetings, and others are planning to do so this week. Each unit is expected to present a new set of priorities in their field of expertise, and also to suggest various possible funding possibilities. Their conclusions will be prepared for release in the coming weeks.
In a statement, the alternative panel of experts said that "recent statements of senior ministers suggest that the government does not understand what is happening here. Those who look down on the protest and surround themselves with tycoons do not understand the depth of the revulsion at the economic processes they have led, which enrich the rich at the expense of the rest of the public. This method has created enormous gaps, greed and deteriorating public services, education, welfare and health."
The statement also said that "the demands of the public today are for fundamental change in the method, not just some improvements of it. The Trajtenberg committee, whose mandate and scope for maneuvering have not been publicized, does not appear to be capable of leading such change."
The new team vows to present practical possibilities for changing priorities. Moreover, its members have declared that they intend to work with complete transparency, in cooperation with the public and in coordination with the leadership of the protest. Members of the various sub-units will visit the tent cities to hear the views of the people.
Prof. Yossi Ze'ira of the Hebrew University will lead the team that will address economics; Emily Silverman, from the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, will head the housing and transportation group; Prof. Yitzhak Gal-Nur of Hebrew University, a former Civil Service Commissioner, will head the public administration sub-unit; Prof. Ya'akov Kashti of Tel Aviv University and Rabbi Shay Piron, who runs the Petah Tikva yeshiva, will head the education group; Prof. Danny Filc of Ben-Gurion University will be responsible for the health sub-unit; Nadia Ismail of the Abraham Fund will be in charge of the employment group; Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer will head the legal team; Prof. Bilha Tadher of Tel Aviv University will oversee the social security group; and Prof. Yossi Yonah will head a group that will deal with "fundamentals of a policy of social justice."