Netanyahu cares about power, not affordable living
The government's main consideration is not improving the quality of life and reducing the cost of living, but rather giving in to cronyism and vested interests in an effort to remain in power.
Due to opposition from a few ministers and scheduling issues, the cabinet Sunday failed to make any decisions about the Trajtenberg committee's proposals to increase competition in Israel's economy.
The cabinet was to have passed resolutions to heighten competition in the cement and cooking gas markets as well as for gas stations, public transportation and seaports, among other areas, but in the end everything was put off to the next meeting.
These will be steps in the right direction, but they are not the main measures the government needs to take. There is still no agreement over the central recommendations of the Trajtenberg committee with regard to competition: reducing customs fees for food and eliminating obstacles to imports such as the Standards Institution of Israel and import duties, in order to ease prices.
Pressure from manufacturers and farmers have kept these important issues from even being placed on the agenda for yesterday's weekly cabinet meeting.
There are no signs of any movement on recommendations for education or welfare, either. Despite a cabinet resolution to cut the defense budget, pressure from Defense Minister Ehud Barak and the army have had their effect, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu no longer favors reducing military spending by NIS 3 billion.
Without such a cut, it will be impossible to offer free education from the age of 3 or to pay for affordable housing, vocational training for the ultra-Orthodox and other social-welfare programs.
The defense budget has climbed steeply in the last five years. This is due in part to implementation of the recommendations of the Brodet Commission, which aimed to redress shortcomings revealed in the Second Lebanon War. But budget overruns are also to blame.
The treasury wants to get the army at least in line with the Brodet plan, but Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz has failed to achieve even that.
The situation is no less desperate when it comes to affordable housing. Despite the Trajtenberg recommendations, once again the cheap apartments in the pipeline will go to Haredim. Instead of introducing earning potential as the criterion for eligibility, Netanyahu and Housing and Construction Minister Ariel Atias agreed to keep the old criteria - how long a couple has been married and how many children they have.
And there you have it: The recommendations of the Trajtenberg committee are dissipating before our eyes. The government's main consideration is not improving the quality of life and reducing the cost of living, but rather giving in to cronyism and vested interests in an effort to remain in power.
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