Trajtenberg recommendations are good for Israel’s hard-working middle class

What angers Shas are proposed reductions in housing benefits for the ultra-Orthodox, and reduced funding for Yeshiva students.

By Nehemia Shtrasler, HAARETZ

What didn’t they say about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his response to the social protest: They said he would not establish a committee, that the Trajtenberg Committee is a mere fig leaf, that he won’t adopt the recommendations and that the cabinet will reject it again like it did last week.

But Netanyahu did it. And while it is only the beginning of the road, it is still starting off on the right foot.

Netanyahu has a lot of work left to do. First, the Finance Ministry has to turn the recommendations into proper decisions and to get the cabinet to approve them. Some of the proposals require Knesset legislation – for example those concerning taxes.

It will take time, because every lawmaker will want something for his or her public, at the expense of Trajtenberg. It will clearly be hard to get it past the Knesset Finance Committee, whose chairman, United Torah Judaism’s Moshe Gafni, will levy very high “passage fees.” That should not surprise Netanyahu. Having made them his “natural allies” he should expect them to be waiting around every corner.

The most important achievement in yesterday’s cabinet vote on the Trajtenberg recommendations was the slashing of the defense budget, over the protests of Defense Minister Ehud Barak and despite the fearmongering of Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz.

Still, let’s not forget that the cut was only from the additional funding it gets every year as recommended by the Brodet Committee.

Netanyahu fought for the cut, and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said: “Even if they got NIS 10 billion for defense, they would say it could not be cut.”

Barak told the cabinet that everyone should remember what happened in the Yom Kippur War and in the Second Lebanon War due to cutbacks to defense. But the surprise attack happened because of intelligence faults, not because of funding, and the Winograd Committee investigating the Second Lebanon War determined that its failings had nothing to do with funding.

With the whole world in the midst of a debt crisis, Barak proposed for the umpteenth time his idea of increasing the deficit instead of slashing the defense budget. So just imagine how irresponsible it is to recommend now, of all times, exceeding the current budget.

To get the Trajtenberg recommendations approved, Netanyahu and Steinitz had to “buy” Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. But the demands of the Yisrael Beiteinu leader’s party are in the right direction – more housing for seniors, alluding also to new immigrants, changes in eligibility for public housing and preference to working people, tax-payers and army veterans.

That is precisely what angers Shas. They will not acTrajtenberg recommendations, which subtract from the huge benefits the ultra-Orthodox get in housing and recommend funding for only the most suitable yeshiva students.cept the Trajtenberg also recommended teaching marketable employment skills in Haredi schools.

Shas also opposes changes in subsidized housing that would mean that fewer Haredi families and more working families would be eligible.

The funniest thing was to hear Dafni Leef praise Interior Minister and Shas chairman Eli Yishai for being “the man” by opposing the report and realizing that there’s no difference between secular and Haredi people.

Yishai probably laughed himself silly over that. He used Leef to strike at the report, and she doesn’t realize that he is fighting the Trajtenberg recommendations because they are good for the hard-working, tax-paying, army-serving middle class. Just the opposite of Yishai’s voters.

October 10, 2011 | Comments »

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