A new policy agenda released Wednesday by the Taub Center – a professional, independent and non-political research institute – addresses the recent widespread social protests in Israel.
This document is authored by the Taub Center's executive director, Professor Dan Ben-David, and the chairs of its five Policy Programs: Professor Dov Chernichovsky (Health Policy Program), Professor Ayal Kimhi (deputy director and Labor Policy Program), Professor Michael Shalev (Social Welfare Policy Program), Professor Yossi Shavit (Education Policy Program), and Professor Eran Yashiv (Economic Policy Program).
The professional leadership of the Taub Center calls for a new socioeconomic agenda for Israel. The authors – who are also leading researchers at Tel Aviv University, Hebrew University and Ben-Gurion University – have been studying Israel's economic and social problems for many years.
The agenda authored by them is unique on the Israeli landscape in its interdisciplinary consensus in identification of the problems and in the concrete policy solutions it calls for to address them.
The paper provides evidence on a multi-decade deterioration in both human capital and physical infrastructures that have exacerbated poverty and income inequality, impeded economic growth, inflated prices, negatively impacted general welfare, and are now jeopardizing the next generation's ability to compete successfully in a global, competitive marketplace.
The Taub Center leaders argue that addressing the root issues at the heart of Israel's major, long-term problems will require an overhaul in the country’s public policy mindset and in its national priorities towards substantial restoration, rehabilitation and rebuilding of the human capital and physical infrastructures. These are the primary instruments for reducing poverty and inequality at their source and for generating the economic growth necessary for raising Israel’s overall standard of living.
In a public climate predisposed towards symptomatic rather than core treatment, the professional leadership of the Taub Center expresses concern that the Trajtenberg Commission’s mandate was determined along lines of political expediency that will considerably limit its ability or willingness to address the primary underlying causes of Israel’s unsustainable, long-run socioeconomic trajectories. The political constraints on the Commission may cause it to avoid proposing comprehensive solutions that would finally address the key issues – critical and necessary solutions that are urgent before Israel crosses the point of no-return.
The Taub Center leadership believes that under the current circumstance, and with the extraordinary public pressure, a unique opportunity for redefining Israel social and economic national priorities has been created. Prof. Trajtenberg’s Commission has an obligation and a responsibility to use its exceptional professional abilities and present the country’s political leadership with an accurate and comprehensive assessment of the current reality and the inherent dangers should the country fail to immediately address its fundamental problems in a systemic and significant manner.
Research conducted by the Taub Center over the years paints a very problematic long-run picture. This picture is at the root of the new Agenda proposed by the Taub Center leaders, which is unique in the level of agreement reached by experts of varying disciplines and personal beliefs.
The new socioeconomic policy agenda released Wednesday is intended to assist the Trajtenberg Commission and to emphasize, both to the Commission and to the general public, the main issues and policy directions that need to be adopted for the country to change direction.
The agenda adopts a systemic approach, which should be the guiding light for Israel’s policy makers, shifting the focus towards the general good and away from the special interest pressure groups – be they from a particular sector, institution, business, or individual – that have until now largely dictated Israel's national agenda.
The paper's authors highlight the primary problems and propose policy changes in the following areas: Government spending; revenue sources; housing; labor market; primary, secondary and higher education; health; infrastructures; welfare; higher concentration of wealth and resources.
The paper concludes with an "epilogue" on social justice in a modern welfare state.