The government has set up its committee of experts to address the demands of the social justice protestors. No mandate or parameters have been publicized yet. Probably because there are none.
The protestors have set up their own committee to present the government’s committee with detailed proposals to fix the Israeli economy. The ‘people’s committee’ is made up of some 60 experts subdivided into nine working teams. That’s a lot of people with a lot of different causes and interests.
I might be oversimplifying things here, but what’s the point of all this? Every serious expert you talk to says the same thing:
To change Israel’s financial priorities and make the economy more equitable, you need to do the following four things:
1. Stop funding the ultra-Orthodox [education, housing, social benefits] and get them into the workforce.
2. Break up the market concentration, monopolies and cartels running this economy thus allowing more competition, reduced prices, and a more equitable distribution of wealth.
3. Reform or destroy the Israel Lands Administration, which holds vast amounts of state land, which, when it does market land for private use, gives it to mega-rich developers who construct housing that nobody but themselves can afford.
4. Cut the defense budget by
a) Getting tough, serious, professional oversight over Defense Ministry and IDF spending
b) Make peace with the Palestinians, Syrians, and everyone else.
That’s it. Four things: Haredim to work, break the monopolies, reform the land policy, and cut defense spending.
Prime Minister Netanyahu and Finance Minister Steinitz are skirting the issue. They don’t need a committee to tell them what they need to do. They know what they need to do. They need a new coalition without the ultra-Orthodox. But that’s a bridge too far for them. They’d rather not do the hard thing, the right thing, so they’ve set up a committee to deal with everything except the crucial, structural issues that really determine how this government spends our money.
What do you need committees for? They’re big, unwieldy and will get mired in politics and bureaucracy. They’re a sure-fire way of putting the breaks on a socioeconomic revolution.
And that’s exactly what’s happening.
Here’s what Warren Buffet wrote in the New York Times over the weekend:
“Americans are rapidly losing faith in the ability of Congress to deal with our country’s fiscal problems. Only action that is immediate, real and very substantial will prevent that doubt from morphing into hopelessness. That feeling can create its own reality.”
Switch Israel for America and you get the gist:
“Israelis are rapidly losing faith in the ability of the Knesset to deal with our country’s fiscal problems. Only action that is immediate, real and very substantial will prevent that doubt from morphing into hopelessness. That feeling can create its own reality.”
The truth is that at their core, the social justice protests did not start off as political. But to achieve real change, they are going to have to become political. And there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s no need to be ashamed by saying that the middle class wants the government to change the national priorities and to give the government a chance to do just that. And if it doesn’t do that, then it needs to get voted out. That’s how it works, no?