Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was bombarded with criticism over the report last week, finally managed to gather the majority necessary to pass it. The recommendations presented in the document call for the restructuring of the state's socioeconomic priorities to fulfill the demands of the social protesters.
- Netanyahu buckles, defers vote on Trajtenberg report
Netanyahu noted during the cabinet meeting that a final draft of the report, which will contain a series of changes, is to be submitted on January 1. Until then, he said, the government will discuss the reservations presented by the defense establishment over the recommendations with "an open mind."
"An effort will be made to increase transparency and control, while preserving the exclusive authority granted to the IDF chief of staff and the director general of the Defense Ministry," he said.
Netanyahu and Emanuel Trajtenberg last week (Photo: Marc Israel Sellem)
Before the recommendations can be implemented, they will have to be approved by the Knesset.
'Defense Ministry will contribute its part'
During Sunday's cabinet meeting, Defense Minister Ehud Barak addressed the Treasury's demand to cut the state's defense budget in order to finance the some of the reforms presented in the Trajtenberg Report.
"The Defense Ministry will contribute its part to (fulfill) the social protest's just demands," Barak said. "Contrary to certain claims, the Defense Ministry is in favor of transparency and full supervision. However, we oppose to any intervention in the authorities of the chief of staff and the Defense Ministry's director general.
"If there is one place that lacks transparency, it's the Finance Ministry," he added.
Barak noted that the social protest brought forth a rare opportunity to change the state's socioeconomic priorities and close the gaps within the society, "but for that to be done it's necessary to make a series of brave decisions that go beyond the Trajtenberg Report."
"It's a mistake to turn it into a superficial argument over the defense budget," he said.
Ehud Barak (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Prior to the cabinet meeting, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz called on Barak to accept a defense budget cut. "The defense minister himself said that if cuts to the defense establishment were necessary then it will make a meaningful contribution," he said. "The defense minister should keep to his word."
On Saturday, Netanyahu announced he could not promise the report will be brought to a vote fearing another political embarrassment, but managed Sunday to secure the endorsement of Yisrael Beiteinu.
The Finance Ministry has spent the last few days finalizing the budget clauses to meet Yisrael Beiteinu's demands. A final agreement was achieved Sunday morning. Avigdor Lieberman's party demanded that criteria for public housing be altered and preference be given for working families according to the number of children. The party also demanded housing solutions for senior citizens and bigger post-army grants for ex-soldiers.
This in effect secured a majority for the report at the cabinet. Interior Minister Eli Yishai continued to object to the report.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the National Student Union Itzik Shmueli expressed disappointment over the approval of the report, calling it "a grave mistake."
"You cannot resolve difficult problems with cosmetics and word tricks. We intend to carry on with our struggle, and even take it to the next level – both on the streets and in hallways of the Knesset," he said.
Housing protest leader, Daphni Leef, also slammed the report, saying it offers no real solution for the housing crisis: "Where is the public housing? Where is the affordable housing? What about free education for infants and what about the collapsing health system?" she said.
Leef, who met earlier Sunday with Minister Eli Yishai and thanked him for voting against the report, called on Netanyahu to give the citizens of Israel "a new social budget."
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