Social protest - Nir Keidar - 26/9/2011
Israeli social protest leaders Stav Shafir, Daphni Leef, and Regev Contes, Sept. 26, 2011. Photo by Nir Keidar
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Israel's economic policies needed a root canal and the government proposals for change are merely superficial cleaning, social protest leaders said in a press conference on Tuesday, a day after the Trajtenberg Committee released its findings.

The protest leaders called the peoposals for socioeconomic change set forth by the state-formed committe a "blatant insult."

The Trajtenberg Committee, formed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in response to the massive wave of social protest this summer, submitted its final report on Monday recommending reforms in education, housing, labor laws, as well as taxation.

The leaders of the largest social protest movement in Israel's history, however, rejected the conclusion of the Trajtenberg Committee on Tuesday and accused the government of not taking their demands seriously.

"This committee received a limited charter, a pathetic charter, and it fulfilled that charter completely. We asked for a root canal and instead got our teeth cleaned. The summer of 2011 may be over, but our protest continues," protest leader Daphni Leef said, calling the panel's final report a "blatant insult."

"What did the citizens of Israel receive? I don’t want to take the [Trajtenberg] Committee lightly, even though I could, mainly because that committee took us lightly," Leef said.

"We will not be mocked any longer or taken for granted. I have listened to and read all of the [committee's] recommendations. They included nothing that aided the weaker and weakened, the single mothers, the elderly, the sick, the contract workers. They threw some bones to the middle class, but the middle class is dwindling away," she added.

Leef also referred to what she called government attempts to drive a wedge between the different groups that comprise the social protest movement, saying: "They're trying to scare us by saying that we will all pay for taking care of the weak."

"That's their method, divide and conquer. But the truth is the opposite of that. Do you really think you would be able to fool us as you have fooled us until now? No, that won't work anymore," Leef said.

Leef said the prime minister had a month "to offer us real suggestions, serious ones," adding that on October 29, "just as the Knesset is due to return from its break, we will return to the streets in full force."

"We will not give up, leave, quiet down, or rest," Leef said, adding: "We don't have to run to politics, we have a massive civilian element. We will vote with our feet."

In the press conference, protest leaders, along with an alternative panel of economic experts, submitted what they called their "vision for social justice, an overhaul of [Israel's] social policy, the same policy which brought a million people out of their homes this summer, a policy which we demand to change."

"These are not slogans or clichés. Today we are introducing a different social outlook, a solidarity that take care of all of its members," Leef said.


"Social justice is a social budget, a just budget, [one in which] weaker sections of society are bolstered, society as a whole is bolstered, including the middle class. When they are weakened we are all dragged down. We demand a new social budget, an accountable budget, one which takes the citizen under consideration, and first and foremost the weak and weakened citizen," the social protest leader added.

Speaking following the submission of the Trajtenberg report on Monday, Prime Minister Netanyahu called the panel's findings "a landmark in Israel's economy and society," adding that the committee, led by Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg, was able to accomplish "the unbelievable."

"In only a short span of time, they were able to thoroughly study the issues, include the public in panel deliberations, and form recommendations that will mend wrongs existent in Israel's economy," Netanyahu said, adding that the panel's findings would eventually result in a reality in which "Israeli citizens could buy and do more with their money."

In his statement, the premier said the committee's findings brought real change: "Change in education, change in welfare services, change in altering Israel's economic priorities: taking care of children, reforming taxation, economic competition, lowering customs charges, bringing down housing costs, and more."