Hard­ship re­lief on the cards for Is­raelis

The Jewish Chronicle - - World News - BY ANSHEL PF­EF­FER

THE GOV­ERN­MENT com­mit­tee that was ap­pointed last week by Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu to come up with a pro­gramme to al­le­vi­ate the fi­nan­cial hard­ships of Is­raelis be­gan its work this week.

The com­mit­tee, headed by Pro­fes­sor Tracht­en­berg, vis­ited sites in Tel Aviv and Beer Sheva to talk to the protest lead­ers, and is set to be­gin its meet­ings next week.

Mean­while, a par­al­lel com­mit­tee of eco­nomic and so­cial ex­perts set up by the protest move­ment also be­gan meet­ing this week.

Al­though the protest d o e s n o t seem to be flag­ging, with over 20 tent sites around Is­rael and 75,000 tak­ing to the streets last Satur­day night, there have been re­ports that lo­cal mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and the po­lice are plan­ning to evict the pro­test­ers.

The rea­sons are two-fold: the grow­ing com­plaints from lo­cal res­i­dents about the noise and un­san­i­tary con­di­tions re­sult­ing from five weeks of protests, and the need for po­lice to con­cen­trate on dis­tur­bances ex­pected next month as the UN de­bates uni­lat­eral recog­ni­tion of a Pales­tinian state.

TheTracht­en­bergCom­mit­tee’s rec­om­men­da­tions have sparked an an­gry de­bate be­tween the fi­nance and de­fence min­istries over the IDF bud­get. The Fi­nance Min­istry leaked to the press this week plans to cut the de­fence bud­get, cur­rently at 54.4 bil­lion shekels (£9.4 bil­lion), by at least two bil­lion shekels (£345 mil­lion). The cut would be used to fi­nance tax breaks and so­cial ben­e­fits, as rec­om­mended by the com­mit­tee.

Mean­while, there are signs that Mr Ne­tanyahu may be try­ing to by­pass the core mid­dle-class pro­test­ers and ap­peal to his more tra­di­tional vot­ers.

Sources close to the Tracht­en­berg Com­mit­tee said this week that it will be fo­cus­ing on help­ing those on the lower in­come lev­els, fam­i­lies mak­ing less than 9000 shekels (£1550) a month. The Prime Min­is­ter is cer­tainly more in­ter­ested in bet­ter­ing the lot of these groups, which gen­er­ally vote Likud, than the ur­ban and sec­u­lar mid­dle class, which tends to vote left

wards.

PHOTO: FLASH 90

A house-price pro­tester in

Tel Aviv

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