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Israeli Cabinet Approves Measures to Ease Social Woes

The Israeli Cabinet approved the Trajtenberg report, which proposes solutions to Israel’s socioeconomic problems.

The Cabinet approved the report Sunday by a vote of 21 to 8. The vote reportedly came after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered the Yisrael Beiteinu party a deal to vote in favor. Netanyahu agreed to more benefits for working couples, soldiers and those in national service in exchange for the votes, the Israeli business daily Globes reported.

The 14-member committee of academics and economists, which was chaired by Manuel Trajtenberg of the Israel Council for Higher Education and a former Tel Aviv University economics professor, was appointed following mass protests last summer to look at the problems facing Israel and come up with solutions.

Among its recommendations, the committee proposed expanding free education to 3- and 4-year-olds; reducing the excise taxes on fuel and tariffs on electrical products and foodstuffs; increasing benefits for working mothers; and implementing health and regulatory changes. The report also called for the construction of nearly 200,000 new apartments, encouraging smaller apartments and rental units, and imposing fines on empty apartments and development-ready sites that are not being used.

On the revenue side, along with defense spending cuts, the committee recommended increasing taxes on high earners, corporations and capital gains, as well as freezing planned tax cuts for the middle class.

Before the vote, Netanyahu said, “Approving the report will allow us to submit detailed decisions to the Cabinet in order to lower the cost of living. A combination of these steps will lower the prices of goods and marketing in the economy, will significantly lower parents’ expenditures for education, will reduce customs duties, and will make housing more available.”

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