Protest Leaders, Defense Officials and Students Give Poor Grade to Report

The cuts, defense and army officials said, would set the Israel Defense Forces back to the situation it was in before the Second Lebanon War, as budget cuts would force reduction in training and equipping of forces.

Even before Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg's press conference had ended in Jerusalem, Daphni Leef and her fellow social protest leaders watching it in a Tel Aviv office were making X's with their hands, signalling to the many reporters present that the Trajtenberg Committee proposals were insufficient.

But while the group that launched this summer's tent protests made an effort to look as if they were weighing the proposals seriously, it was clear that they had more or less made their minds up about the committee back when it was established. They had said then that the panel's authority was too limited to bring any significant change in socioeconomic priorities, and Leef had even called on Trajtenberg to resign.

Netanyahu, Trajtenberg
Haim Tzach

So when Leef came down from the half-hour of rooftop consultations with her colleagues following the press conference, what she said was no surprise.

"The conclusions are disappointing. They are applying the same economic policy that led us to the current situation. Ideas from the protest were invoked that are likely to mislead the public, but there's nothing far-reaching here."

The students, who, unlike the social protesters, appeared before the Trajtenberg Committee because they believed it had to be given a chance, were a bit more diplomatic but equally dissatisfied.

Thanks, but we're disappointed

Students Association head Itzik Shmuli thanked Trajtenberg for taking the time to listen to the public, but expressed his disappointment.

"This committee was given a historic opportunity to initiate changes, and it seems to me that this opportunity was missed," Shmuli said, citing the recommendations on housing and employment as being particularly disappointing.

"There's an unreasonable gap between the breathtaking vision presented by Professor Trajtenberg and the final recommendations presented by his committees, and it's impossible to ignore that gap," Shmuli said. "We give this report a grade of 'unsatisfactory.'"

The defense establishment, meanwhile, was furious with the committee's plan to finance its recommendations largely by cutting the defense budget by at least NIS 2.5 billion annually.

The cuts, defense and army officials said, would set the Israel Defense Forces back to the situation it was in before the Second Lebanon War, because the budget cuts would force a reduction in the training and equipping of forces.

A senior defense official accused the treasury of "exploiting the social protest to achieve its own ideological goals, which have nothing at all to do with changing priorities. These are goals that the treasury was talking about long before the social protest or the Trajtenberg Committee."