In a meeting with Knesset Finance Committee members Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that although he takes Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg's committee for socioeconomic change "very seriously," he has not promised to adopt its recommendations. Netanyahu said the cabinet must maintain balance between the panel's recommendations and economic stability.
Thus the prime minister cast doubt on the committee members' judgment and understanding of Israel's economic interests, and prepared the ground to depict the panel's recommendations for meaningful reforms as a threat to the country's economic stability.
Netanyahu's comments suggest a retreat from his promise to Trajtenberg - that he would change his opinions on socioeconomic priorities. Thus, the prime minister showed the protest leaders were right to appoint their own panel of experts to propose a new distribution of the national pie. As Prof. Avia Spivak, one of the heads of the independent team, said, increasing state expenditure in order to improve the middle class's well-being does not necessitate increasing the deficit. It can be done by changing fiscal policy and budget priorities.
The protest leaders should be complimented for selecting top-notch experts from a broad range of disciplines and backgrounds, and the experts who agreed to lend their time and expertise to Israeli society in this manner should be praised.
Trajtenberg showed wisdom in welcoming the independent panel, in initiating a dialogue with the protest's leaders and in inviting the public to help answer the issues raised in the popular protest through YouTube.
If the prime minister is genuinely willing to abandon his neoliberal principles in order to restore the welfare state, he must express complete trust in the members of the committee that he himself appointed when it comes to Israel's economic stability. Declarations that create doubts about his commitment to the panel's recommendations undermine the panel's credibility.
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