Professor Manuel Trajtenberg, who headed the government-appointed committee that figured out ways to lower the cost of living for middle class Israelis following the 2011 social protests, warned on Monday that the latest protest, involving young Israelis living in Berlin, is “a real threat”.
He was referring to a new Facebook campaign urging Israelis, mainly younger adults, to move to Germany due to the fact that ordinary groceries are much cheaper there than they are in Israel.
"All of a sudden Berlin has become more attractive and that’s a real threat. There is a sense of disappointment [among Israelis], and it does not matter whether there were successes or failures - you cannot argue with feelings", Trajtenberg said Monday evening.
He further opined that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu "is unable to lead the socio-economic issue - not under the situation that exists in Israel.”
“There are unique difficulties we have here that make it very hard to lead the issue,” said Trajtenberg. “One problem is that the prime minister of Israel is first and foremost a prime minister of security and political matters and so he cannot lead the socio-economic issue in a sustainable manner. He outsources the issue, usually through the Ministry of Finance, which is problematic because the Ministry of Finance has its own policy.”
High rents and food costs, particularly that of cottage cheese, an Israeli staple, were among the triggers of a popular protest movement that peaked in 2011 with record numbers of Israelis from all walks of life taking to the streets and squatting in urban tent camps.
It was those protests that prompted the government to appoint Trajtenberg’s committee, which presented its findings three years ago, in October of 2011.
Referring to his committee from three years ago and to the fact that some of its findings have yet to be implemented, Trajtenberg admitted that the ability of his committee to have a real influence on the government was limited.
"The protest succeeded by placing the socio-economic issue at center stage after years in which it was sidelined. During the 49 days that the committee which I headed was in action, a precedent was set in the scope and speed of its operations, but there is a series of failures, and the largest is in the area of cost of living, particularly in housing,” he said.
“The rise in housing prices not only did not stop, but they continued to climb higher and higher and they are now at an all-time high,” said Trajtenberg.