Full Text Israel Political Brief October 3, 2011: PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s Remarks at the Start of Weekly Cabinet Meeting on Lowering Israel’s Cost of Living

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

PM Netanyahu’s Remarks at the Start of the Weekly Cabinet Meeting

Source: PMO, 10-3-11

PM Netanyahu’s Remarks at the Start of the Weekly Cabinet Meeting

(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Following are Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Monday), 3.10.11:

“First, I would like to wish all ministers and deputy ministers, and all Israelis, a happy and healthy new year.  I believe that this will be a good year, a very good year.  I would like to wish you, Professor Manuel Trajtenberg and the members of your committee, a good year in the wake of the accelerated, serious and detailed work that you did in order to bring good news to Israel’s society.  I know that you invested much of yourself, under complicated conditions, in opening a dialogue with the public, in achieving breakthroughs in so many new fields, as well as old ones that had not been dealt with for many years.  I think that you did very, very important work.

We are going to devote the greater part of this meeting to discussing your committee’s important report.  I believe that there is a change of direction here.  Israelis need to know that we are changing the national order of priorities.  We are making many social corrections for the benefit of Israel’s citizens, but we are doing so responsibly.  The main mission before us is to lower the cost of living in Israel.  This is the root of the distress affecting Israelis and this is what we are going to change and correct.

We are changing the national order of priorities in a wide range of areas including childcare for toddlers, lowering a series of customs duties, enacting tax corrections and cancelling tax distortions, increasing competitiveness for products and services for the benefit of the Israeli economy, increasing negative income tax, housing easements, etc.  We will discuss these today and at future meetings until detailed proposals are submitted.

All of this will be done responsibly, without opening the country’s overdraft.  If we do not act responsibly, we could certainly lead the state of Israel into the situation of many other countries that are on the verge of economic bankruptcy, the collapse of their social welfare systems and high unemployment.  We will act differently.  We will adopt the main points of the report and afterwards we will move forward with detailed recommendations.  Our intention will be to make social corrections while maintaining economic responsibility.  I think that Israel will thereby make a new breakthrough and be a symbol for many other countries vis-à-vis the direction to take.”

דברי ראש הממשלה בפתח ישיבת הממשלה

03/10/2011 – יום שני ה’ תשרי תשע”ב

ראשית, אני רוצה לאחל לכל השרים, סגני השרים, סגניות השרים, אני רוצה לאחל לכולכם, לכל אזרחי ישראל שנה טובה וגמר חתימה טובה. אני מאמין שהולכת להיות שנה טובה, שנה טובה מאוד, ואני רוצה לאחל לך באופן אישי, מנו, לפרופ’ טרכטנברג ולחברי הוועדה, אני רוצה לאחל לכם גם כן שנה טובה אחרי העבודה המאומצת, הרצינית והמעמיקה שעשיתם כדי להביא בשורה לחברה בישראל. אני יודע שאתה השקעת בזה השקעה אישית עצומה, בתנאים לא פשוטים, תוך כדי פתיחת דיאלוג עם הציבור, בפריצת דרך בכל מיני תחומים חדשים או תחומים ישנים שלא טופלו במשך שנים רבות, ואני חושב שעשית עבודה מאוד מאוד חשובה.

אנחנו הולכים לייחד את רוב רובה של הישיבה הזאת לדיון בדוח החשוב של הוועדה בראשותך, ואני מאמין שיש פה שינוי כיוון. אזרחי ישראל צריכים לדעת שהיום אנחנו משנים את סדר העדיפויות הלאומי. אנחנו עושים תיקונים חברתיים רבים שייטיבו עם אזרחי ישראל, אבל אנחנו עושים אותם באחריות. המשימה המרכזית שעומדת בפנינו היא הורדת יוקר המחייה בישראל. זהו שורש המצוקה שפוקדת את אזרחי ישראל וזה הדבר שאותו אנחנו באים לשנות ולתקן.

אנחנו משנים את סדר העדיפויות הלאומיות במגוון רחב של תחומים. החל בסיוע לטיפול בילדים מהגיל הרך, דרך הפחתת שורה ארוכה של מכסים, דרך תיקוני מסים וביטול עיוותי מסים, דרך הגברת התחרות במוצרים ושירותים לרווחה במשק הישראלי, דרך הגדלת מס הכנסה שלילי, דרך הקלות בדיור ועוד תחומים רבים שלא אמרתי. נדון בכך בישיבה הזאת וגם בדיוני המשך, עד להבאת הצעות מחליטים מפורטות לממשלה.

כל זה נעשה באחריות, בלי לפתוח את האוברדראפט של המדינה. אם לא ננהג באחריות, אנחנו בהחלט יכולים להביא את מדינת ישראל למצב של מדינות רבות שבעצם הגיעו לסף פשיטת רגל כלכלית, לקריסת מערכות הרווחה שלהן, וכמובן גם לאבטלה גבוהה. אנחנו ננהג אחרת, אנחנו נאמץ את עיקרי הדוח ואח”כ נלך קדימה להמלצות פרטניות, כשהכוונה שלנו היא לעשות תיקונים חברתיים תוך כדי שמירה על אחריות כלכלית. וגם בזה אני חושב שישראל תפרוץ דרך חדשה ותסמל את הכיוון למדינות רבות אחרות.

תודה רבה לכם, שנה טובה.

Israel Brief August 23, 2011: Tel Aviv Police Remove Housing Protesters From Squat

ISRAEL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

Police Remove Protesters From Tel-Aviv Squat

Source: Virtual Jerusalem, 8-23-11

The police removed the social protesters this morning from the abandoned building on Tel Aviv’s Dov Hoz Street that they took over yesterday. “We shall not be moved,” the squatters declared as they set up what they called a “community center” in the building.

200 protesters entered the building, which was once the boarding school and dormitories for young theater actors. The protestors hung a large signtel aviv housing crisis tent cities “Liberated Building” and chanted protest slogans. In a reminder of Tel Aviv’s People’s House, where the Declaration of Independence was signed, the protesters said that they would set up a People’s House for community housing in the squat.

Protest leader Hadar Shemesh told “IDF Radio” (Galei Zahal), “The police evicted us. There was no violence on our part. There was some shoving and scuffles, but nothing more. We also counted two arrests. The protest is not over, and it continues by every means. We are united and the eviction will not end this.”

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai said that the squatters crossed the line and broke the law. “Until now, the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality allowed and even assisted the protest in the city in accordance with the spirit of Tel Aviv democracy. I have frequently expressed my public support for this just protest and personally attended the large rally held in the city,” he said yesterday.

“Regrettably, a line was crossed by a minority of hotheads who chose to break the law and take over a public property which is unsafe. These people exploited the public’s credit for this acceptable and legitimate protest that is in line with Tel Aviv’s values of peace, freedom of expression, and obeying the law, and put it on the path of violence and criminality. The squat is a crime, and such actions not only do not help the protest and violates democratic values, but will boomerang and hurt the protest’s power, the broad support it has had until now, and its legitimacy.”

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news – http://www.globes-online.com

Israel Economic Protests: PM Benjamin Netanyahu Slams Tent Protesters

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

Source: Virtual Jerusalem, 8-4-11

In a speech to the Knesset today following approval of his National Housing Committees Law, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu castigated the tent protesters. “There is distress in Israel, but it should be solved in a responsible way. A wave of populism is sweeping the country. Our ability to meet social needs greatly depends on continued growth,” he said.

Netanyahu was frequently heckled during his speech, including by MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima), who shouted, “Where have you been until now?tel aviv  housing crisis tent cities

“63 years ago, our GDP was the same as Egypt’s, Syria’s, and our neighbors whose populations were much larger,” Netanyahu continued. Had we not increased our GDP per capita, we could not have met our economic burden, and therefore our economic vehicle is vital, and heaven forbid if, when seeking solutions and correcting the distortions that need correcting, we must not disable this vehicle. Then we’ll be in far greater distress.”

Netanyahu warned against deterioration in Israel’s economy, which would result in conditions similar to those in debt-burdened European countries. “If what has happened in Europe happens to us, the damage we will suffer will be far greater than what has happened to them.”

He also mentioned Israel’s low unemployment rate compared with Western countries, saying, “At a time when unemployment is rising in Western economies, it is falling in Israel.”

Netanyahu spoke proudly of the measures his government has instituted as part of the biennial 2011-12 budget. “We’ve invested NIS 7 billion in a multiyear plan that is bringing back people from the best universities in the world. We’ve invested almost NIS 30 billion in roads and railways – we’re doing this. We’ve moved the IDF south to the Negev, we’ve invested NIS 17 billion in this. Officers, senior NCOs, families, 10,000 IDF personnel will hold up the Negev.”

As for the issue of Israel’s indirect taxes, against which the middle class is protesting, Netanyahu said, “There are Israeli citizens who are saying, ‘OK, our salaries are rising and income per capita is rising, and yet, if I’m a working young couple with two children, it’s hard for me to make ends meet.’ The question is why?

“The answer is that we’re not at Europe’s price levels. There, most prices and many services cost less, even when taxes are lowered. The price Israeli citizens pay for basic goods in higher than in Western countries.”

Netanyahu said that a lack of competition was the main reason for the high cost of living.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news – http://www.globes-online.com

Israel Economic Protests: With protests, Israelis are seeking the revival of welfare state

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

Source: JTA, 8-2-11

The wave of protests sweeping Israel is about much more than the lack of affordable housing: It’s a grass-roots demand for the major redistribution of the nation’s wealth.

Israeli students, holding a sign reading "Welfare state now!," protest outside the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem against the high cost of living, Aug. 1, 2011.  (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

In social terms, protesters are calling for a more caring government attuned to the needs of young, middle-class citizens who serve in the army, pay heavy taxes and provide the engine driving the country’s burgeoning economy.

In economic terms, it is a call for the reversal of nearly three decades of fiscal conservativism at the expense of social services such as education, health and welfare, as well as an appeal against eroding salaries and rising prices.

In other words, the protesters are demanding that today’s thriving free-market Israel use its wealth to create conditions for a restoration of at least some elements of the long-defunct Israeli welfare state.

As an estimated 150,000 people demonstrated Saturday night in 12 locations across the country, the central theme was a demand for “social justice.” To some, it was reminiscent of the students’ revolt in Paris in the late 1960s: an alliance of students, workers and, in the Israeli case, a large, financially strapped middle class of people mostly in their 20s and 30s demanding a new economic order.

But there were key differences: In the Israeli case, there was no violence. Instead, there was a veiled, largely unspoken threat: that if the government fails to act and middle-class people continue to struggle to make ends meet, many more of the best and brightest would leave for countries where there is no defense burden and it’s easier to make a living.

As the protests entered their third week, the great Israeli paradox loomed large: Never has the country been economically stronger, yet never have so many of its young people felt so frustrated at their own personal financial status.

The current situation is partly a result of a constitutional lacuna….READ MORE

Israel Economic Protests: Netanyahu Refuses to Speak to Protesters

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF


Source: Virtual Jerusalem, 8-1-11

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said this netanyahu protestsevening that he is not prepared to negotiate with the protesters, or even meet with them. However, while he is not ready to hold talks directly with them, he said that they were “invited to talk to Minister of Finance Yuval Steinitz.”

Earlier today Netanyahu had told a meeting of the Likud faction in the Knesset that, “The claims being made on the streets are justified and therefore we need to deal with it but without harming the business sector.”

Published by Globes, Israel business news – http://www.globes-online.com

Israel Economic Protests: Tent Cities Pop Up in Protest of Housing Crisis

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

Source: Virtual Jerusalem, 7-29-11

On Rothschild Boulevard, Tel Aviv’s version of Park Avenue, a burgeoning tent city has sprung up amid crowded cafes and its canopy of ficus trees.

The squatters are protesting soaring housing prices in the country, and they have galvanized a sudden full-scale national protest, from Kiryat Shemona in the North to Beersheva in the South, that has plunged the government into crisis mode.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled a planned trip to Poland this week and the interior minister has called for ttel aviv housing crisis tent citieshe Knesset to cancel its summer recess. Tent cities are swelling in cities across Israel, protesters are blocking roads and activists have practically besieged the Knesset. On Saturday evening, an estimated 20,000 marchers filled the streets of Tel Aviv calling for affordable housing.

“For years, Israelis have been like zombies because of the security situation and did not speak out when other areas were ignored, like education and the economy,” said Amir Ben-Cohen, a 30-year-old graduate student camping out on Rothschild Boulevard. “Enough. We are a new generation.”

Some are hailing the protests as Israel’s version of the Arab Spring. This Israeli Summer movement is being led by university students and young professionals in their 20s and 30s who until now have shown little interest in demonstrations or activism. One sign strung between tents in Tel Aviv read, “Rothschild, corner of Tahrir,” a reference to the Egyptian uprising that centered in Tahrir Square.

With a recent Haaretz poll showing 87 percent of Israelis supporting the housing protesters, their grievances appear to be striking a chord nationwide.

Like much of the world, Israelis recently have seen cost-of-living metrics rise across the board, especially for food and gas. But unlike in the United States, where real estate prices are in retreat, housing prices in Israel have skyrocketed, on average doubling since 2002.

With the average Israeli salary at $2,500 a month and modest-sized apartments in Jerusalem and the Tel Aviv area selling for $600,000, many Israelis feel priced out of their own neighborhoods, particularly young people who live in places where there is a dearth of rental properties….READ MORE

Israel Economic Protests: Protesters Reject Netanyahu’s Housing Plan

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

Source: Virtual Jerusalem, 7-27-11

The leaders of the Rothschild Blvd. tent protest in Tel Aviv reject Prime Minister Netanyahu’s proposals on how to end the crisis, and vow to escalate their struggle. In a press conference yesterday at the encampment, the protest leaders accused Netanyahu and his ministers of failing to understand the depth of the people’s distress, and that this was reflected in the prime minister’s proposals.

Dafni Leif, one of the protest leaders, said, “Netanyahu remembered this morning that he had something small and marginal to take care of – a people. We have heard his plans and we want to tell him that we weren’t born yesterday. What he is offering us all is a huge fraud. He is continuing with, and even exacerbating, his and his government’s cynical policies.”

We say NOnetanyahu housing

Leif said that the prime minister, “is lying to all of us when he presents these solutions, whose masterpiece is that the state will give land for free to the contractors, who happen to be friends with the prime minister. They will get to build them, but the buildings will not be sold for free. This is what he calls affordable housing. This plan is a direct continuation of this government’s privatization plans. We say no to Netanyahu’s proposals.”

Yigal Rambam, another of the Rothschild Blvd. protest leaders, said, “The ground is heating up. There are 1,000 tents spread around the country. There are demonstrations every day, displays of strength. The spontaneous blocking of intersections two days ago was a reaction to the prime minister’s attempt to hijack the protest and pass the National Housing Commissions Law. We have shown the prime minister that the people are powerful.” Rambam added, “We will continue with our struggle until they return to us our right to live in dignity and to see a future.”

Stav Shafir, another protest leader, bitterly criticized the housing law. “This is more of a vandal’s law than anything else. It is violence against the people. How can they present this law as a step that will bring about affordable housing? Who will receive this affordable housing?”

Protesters living at the Tel Aviv encampment explained their resentment over Netanyahu’s promise to reduce the price of public transportation for students by 50%. They accused his policy of “divide and rule” while at the same time not providing solutions for distress in the broader sectors in society. “And what about the single mothers and the elderly?”

We don’t want cake, we want bread

Protest leaders promised to continue with their wide-range protest activities over the next few days, which will reach a peak on Saturday night, when large protests will take place simultaneously in many cities around the country. “We demand that Bibi does social justice here,” Leif said.

“Our revolution began on the same day as the French Revolution. There too the ruler failed to understand what he was up against. We don’t want cake, we want bread. We would like to tell the Minister of Taxes Yuval Steinitz that we do not wish to live in penthouses, we want to live in apartments,” Leif proclaimed.

A the start of the press conference, there was a confrontation between some of the tent protesters, who claimed that the protest leaders were operating on their own and did not represent all the participants in the protest. One of them, Eyal Tsafadiya, said, “The leadership is operating on its own and is not including all the protesters in its decisions, and in our opinion does not represent the overall group. There is no coordination between all the protesters.”

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news – http://www.globes-online.com

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