Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Trachtenberg Committee

When a Government is faced with a problem what does it do first? Answer, set up a Committee! This is what the Netanyahu Government has done in reponse to the unprecedented wave of social unrest in Israel. First came the protests over cottage cheese prices, then the doctor's strike, then the tent cities in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem protesting the cost of housing, and now its all over the country. Two weeks ago there was a night of demonstrations and marches of about 300,000 people altogther, which is a huge number for a small country like Israel. But since then things have begun to unravel.

First there was the establishment of the Trachtenberg Committee, consisting of 18 MKs and about 10 other eminent citizens, charged with the responsibility of taking testimony from anyone who wanted to cooperate. But, some of the tent protesters refused to cooperate and this split the protest movement, since some refused to have anything to do with the Netanyahu Government at all and others thought there was no alternative. Since the Committee is supposed to report back to Netanyahu in a month, it's a question of either participate or be left out. Obviously some of the protesters were motivated purely by political considerations.

Questions ahve arisen about Daphni Leef, one of the young leaders of the protest movement. She comes from a wealthy family, so no worry about affording apartment rent, she did not sleep at the Rothschild Blvd. tent site all last week, and she refuses to give testimony to the Trachtenberg Committee. It was then discovered that she did not do national service in the IDF, and she walked out of an iterview when asked about this. Some are now wondering how she became a leader of this so-called protest movement.

Then the terrorist ambushes in the South near Eilat that killed 8 people caused many to transfer their priorities back to security rather than social protest. The protesters themselves feeling the change marched in solidarity with the victims. And now the doctor's strike has all but been resolved between the Israel Medical Association and the Treasury. So the past weekend when there was another night of protest but only ca. 20,000 people showed up. Is the protest running out of steam?

Meanwhile the Committee has taken testimony from people from every sphere, protesters, middle class, workers, builders and so on. What they will make of this mass of information remains to be seen, but certainly the Government will come up with some scheme to try to reduce housing and apartment prices. How they could do this in a short period of time is difficult to envision, but they do have Government land in various areas and they could require that a certain proportion of apartments constructed must be small and for lower cost. However, in the area where there is the highest costs, Tel Aviv, the Government has few options. So the Committee may turn out to be like many others, it will give some recommendations that in time will be ignored.


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