Economics professor Manuel Trajtenberg, who headed the Trajtenberg Committee established following social justice protests in the summer of 2011, is joining the Labor-Hatnua list, Labor chief Isaac Herzog announced Wednesday.
At a press conference with Trajtenberg following the announcement, Hatnua chairwoman Tzipi Livni said his involvement would enable the party to implement social and economic reforms, an issue that had been the main focus of several political parties during the previous elections.
Livini called Trajtenberg’s economic advice “smart and to the point,” and said that “we believe that the economic and social issues are directly related to diplomatic and security issues, which Israelis ultimately end up paying for out of their pocket.”
Herzog said that Trajtenberg, who holds a Harvard PhD in economics, “is our candidate for finance minister,” and would lead the party’s platform on economics.
“There have been many hours lately during which we discussed Israel’s economic direction, and we have three main issues: Cost of living, housing, and social inequality,” said Herzog as he presented Trajtenberg as a candidate. “Together, we will bring about a solution so that housing will not be a distant dream.”
It is as yet unclear where Trajtenberg will be placed on the party slate, but he is expected to be given a slot that will give him a realistic chance of joining the next Knesset. Trajtenberg initially wanted to be placed eighth, according to reports, but the slot is reserved for a candidate of Hatnua leader Tzipi Livni’s choosing, and Amir Peretz, Livni’s deputy, refused to give up that position. Trajtenberg is therefore likely to receive either the 11th or 16th slot.
“I am appreciative to you for having chosen me to lead the economic and social field. I thank you for your trust, and am aware of the responsibility and of the hour,” Trajtenberg said during Wednesday’s press conference.
“This is happening as we all desire a new path that will lead to a more just society, which takes care of the working man and the weak.”
“I take this task upon myself and believe in the capabilities inherent to our society, and believe that I can make a real difference and contribute to this society,” he said.
Trajtenberg, who immigrated from Argentina as a teenager, was appointed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to negotiate with leaders of a popular protest movement in 2011, and to draft recommendations in response to their demands. From 2006 to 2009, he served as chief economic advisor to the prime minister’s office as the chair of the National Economic Council.
Two weeks ago, Trajtenberg notified Netanyahu that he was stepping down from his position as head of the Planning and Budgeting Committee at the Council for Higher Education in Israel in order to “pave the way for taking part in the coming election.”
“We have a responsibility toward a whole generation which envisions a gloomy [future], and that the government has turned its back on them,” Trajtenberg said Wednesday after joining the Labor-Hatnua list.
“The merger between Labor and Hatnua is the right move at the right time by the right people, and I am proud to join them and follow them along with many other capable and noteworthy people in order to make [our] prospects a reality, and ignite a spark that will turn to a major blaze. The task is possible, it’s in our hands and we can offer housing to young families and remove the shame of poverty, and above all to put the human being back at the center,” he concluded.
The 2011 social protests, which culminated in a 400,000-plus rally in Tel Aviv, became a major factor in the 2013 elections, with some activists elected to the Knesset and a sense of economic injustice fueling strong election performances by the centrist Yesh Atid party and other political factions.
Adiv Sterman contributed to this report.