Netanyahu Spurns Social Justice Demands - by Stephen Lendman
Unaffordable housing prices ignited mass social justice protests in Israel. At issue is settlement developments at the expense of other construction, creating a supply/demand imbalance enough to cause prices to skyrocket. Israelis demand that issue be addressed responsibly.
In response, Netanyahu's government announced thousands of illegal new West Bank/East Jerusalem settlement units on stolen Palestinian land, harming them grievously. At the same time, he arrogantly ignored the urgency of addressing serious shortages in Tel Aviv, Haifa, West Jerusalem, and other Israeli cities.
In addition, Israel's Knesset passed a controversial housing bill despite popular protests against it. It calls for solving Israel's housing crisis by expanding West Bank settlements, defiantly avoiding what's needed.
It also called for quick action to expedite construction of 50,000 apartments, circumventing planning commissions that take time to decide. Doing so, however, will exacerbate Israel's housing crisis, making an intolerable situation worse.
Since protests began, Netanyahu signaled no meaningful change, saying "solutions (must be) economically sound." In other words, business as usual will continue, papered over with minor cosmetic concessions sure to ignite greater anger sooner or later.
In early August, he appointed Professor Manual Trajtenberg to head a 14-member "panel for socioeconomic change," saying its "recommendations will reflect the need to maintain fiscal responsibility in the state budge. Such responsibility is especially necessary at a time of economic uncertainty," signaling minimal changes at best, far less than vitally needed and demanded.
Neoliberally constructed, Trajtenberg's panel will conduct discussions, propose solutions, and present them to Israel's socioeconomic cabinet (composed of establishment figures headed by neoliberal finance minister Yuval Steinitz) by late September.
In late October, Steinitz will present his own recommendations to Netanhayu, who'll review them and deliver a final proposal to Israel's cabinet by early November, giving officials enough time to let street protests subside. Or so they hope to get away with minimal changes, if any.
Trajtenberg's Socioeconomic Change Panel
Besides himself and Steinitz, the panel includes senior government officials, including:
Eyal Gabai: Netanyahu's Director-General
Eugene Kandel: National Economic Council head
Gal Hershkovitz: Finance Ministry's budget chief
Avi Simhon: Finance Ministry's senior economic advisor
Michal Abadi-Boiangiu: Finance Ministry's accountant-general