• Published 01:50 26.07.11
  • Latest update 01:50 26.07.11

A warning to the tent-dwellers before Netanyahu presents his housing plan

Young protesters are advised to read the fine print of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s plan and not end struggle prematurely.

By Yossi Sarid Tags: Benjamin Netanyahu Israel housing protest Israel protest Israel strike

The free market has wreaked havoc. So the free market must go, and make room for a little more state and welfare.

The macro economy is doing just fine, but the micro economy isn't doing well at all - because man is a microbe, which can be seen only with a microscope. Until now, government officials saw only numbers. But from now on, they have no choice: They have to count people as well.

Housing Protesters - Tali Mayer - 26072011

Protesters blocking a main Tel Aviv road opposite the Azrieli mall.

Photo by: Tali Mayer

The prime minister is pleading with his ministers to "get under the stretcher" and carry some of the weight. For a moment it seemed Benjamin Netanyahu himself was the patient who should be carried from his Jerusalem residence to his Caesarea villa. This is not a stretcher, it's a palanquin, in which he has been sitting for years.

When people keep reminding us that real-estate prices haven't just soared recently, but for the past 10 years, they forget to mention that most of those years were Netanyahu's. They are imprinted with his privatization mania, first as an omnipotent finance minister, then as an impotent prime minister.

This mania promised the world but delivered a world of distress. So few benefited from it, so many paid the price. And now their endurance has snapped.

One struggle - also a just one - ended 15 years ago with a few pizzas. Sara Netanyahu ordered take-away and chalked it up to expenses, and the hunger-striking students succumbed to temptation.

This time, the protesters must be more careful, because this pizza is not fit for human consumption. Don't touch it. You must not eat what they give out, only what you take.

Minister Moshe Kahlon was sent to the television studios over the weekend to promise solutions "not in weeks or days, but in hours." At that moment the countdown started; the eye has remained glued to the clock.

The prime minister himself - attentive as usual to the public's sentiments - promised "surprises" soon. Perhaps Netanyahu will publish his detailed plan for affordable housing as early as today, even though yesterday, he was still begging his ministers for "ideas."

So this is the time to warn of what is to come.

The first warning is to the environmentalists, many of whom are actively participating in the tent protest. The national housing committees Netanyahu is proposing will revoke the rules and principles that ensure responsible, sustainable development and cause irrevocable damage. Netanyahu's supertanker will lay waste to every part of the country.

Israel will become a no-man's land once it is flooded with real estate. Not even the Zionist leaders of yore, Hankin and Ruppin and Ussishkin, would be able to redeem this land, nor will the middle class, which is now fighting to make this status one that offers a dignified living.

The real estate sharks, in their insatiable greed, will gobble up more open areas. They will be the first to take over another juicy chunk of state lands. Thus they will steal even the poor man's plot, and this bargain will cost us dearly.

The second warning is to the young couples and students. You will have some crumbs thrown at you in the next few days, and not only pizza crumbs. But when you crawl under the table to pick them up, you'll find the yeshiva students have beat you to it again. Because you don't have eight children, not even four. So the surprises are not meant for you and your ilk; please go to the end of the line.

In the absence of equal criteria, as opposed to criteria designed exclusively for large families, Netanyahu's paper is not worthy of being called a "plan."

Public construction of apartments for sale and rental is also essential. Why should we show how it works in developed countries when we have examples right here? It's no accident that there has been no trace of the protest beyond the Green Line. When 50 percent of public building over the past decade has been in the West Bank, and only 3 percent in the center of the country, the settlers have no cause for anger. Nor do they need any tents.

It is also no coincidence that all the rightist columnists have joined forces to ridicule the protesters and mock them. They call them those pampered people from Rothschild Boulevard, little rich kids who decided to raise a hue and cry.

Now, after two weeks of struggle, it is imperative to read the small print in Netanyahu's plan carefully, and even more so the large, highlighted print. We must make sure it doesn't turn out, for the umpteenth time, that the road to the lost socialist paradise is paved with bad neoliberal intentions.

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  • 8. 2 0
    Privatisation wasn't the problem
    • Anthony
    • 26.07.11
    • 11:20

    This sounds like socialist dogma. The problem isn't the free market. There are lots of derelict sites in prime locations in Tel Aviv and elsewhere, it is either corruption or incompetence that prevents construction on these sites. There's also pitifully poor transport in Israel - so people cannot live outside of Tel Aviv and commute in. These are the real problems, not capitalism.

  • 7. 3 6
    I stopped reading...
    • Adam
    • 26.07.11
    • 08:43

    ...after 'the free market must go'.

  • 6. 6 1
    Middle Class
    • Josef in Sweden
    • 26.07.11
    • 07:53

    Do not forgett that politicians like Yossi Sarid, forgott to protect the Israeli middle Class. That the miidle calss has been a forgotten are due to a non existing liberal party, that should foremost attract an honest middle class. When I say liberal, i mean in in the poltical sense and not in the M-E conflict.

  • 5. 7 3
  • 4. 6 3
    the soclaiist paradise is a paradise that never was
    • zionist forever
    • 26.07.11
    • 06:53

    When Israel was run by socialist governments who believed it was down to the state to take responsibility for everything Israel was no paradise. They didn't build luxury apartment buildings because nobody could afford to live in them bacause back then everybody was alot poorer because the people who had money were taxed so heavily that they were not all that much better off when it came to spending power than people on lower incomes. Israel was basically a country where nobody had any serious money except for the odd very rich olleh who kept the bulk of their assets abroad so they didn't loose all their money in high taxes. The socialist paradise was a mess. About a decade ago we really started to embrace the free market for the first time and overnight things changed. We sold off failing government owned companies like ELAL, IMI, IAI, Bezeq etc and today some of those companies are doing well for themselves without government money.When Bezeq was a government monopoly having a private telephone was a status symbol, you could be on a waiting list for years. It looked like the internet was going to bypass Israel the only access to it the masses would have would be through internet coffee shops. Then Bezeq lost its monopoly on phone services and suddenly everybody had a phone and the internet spread from the coffee shops to the homes. All this because we abandoned our socialist roots and embraced the free market. In the housing sector the demand is for luxury new builds because thats where the money. Whilst the buyers might not be ordinary Israel's on an average income the things are selling and making the developers millions which is what they are in the business to do, not be men of compassion who will put the needs of ordinary people before the needs of their bank accounts. Settlements are not to blame because they are not being invested in at the expense of the cities they are a different issue entirely. No individual government is to blame. Possibly the thing thats most to blame is Israeli society itself. Israel has a ghetto mentality and society is divided into groups and the different groups live in different places. The arabs are mostly in the north, the religious are in the settlements and Jerusalem whilst the seculars they belong on the coast. So the result is everybody is concentrated in one place so it drives up property prices. If we made better use of the rest of the country it would bring prices down nationwide. For decades now governments on the left and right have talked about Judaizing the Galilee and making the Negev bloom. Right now there is some investment in the Negev but that will take time but there are no attempts to Judaize the Galilee which is something that should be done in the long term because anything this government does as a reaction to the current protests will be a reactionary jump to make it look like the government has all the answers and is going to solve the problem but in reality no government can solve the problem short term. In the case of Tel Aviv even if we did all live in different parts of the country it wouldn't solve the lack of affordability problem which Tel Aviv has because its a big city and it faces the same problems as other cities like London and New York do. In the UK & US people are not all crammed into one part of the country the way they do in Israel but the big city will always be an attraction to some people and cities have always had problems whereby there are some areas which only the rich can afford to live in and ordinary people must live further out in the suburbs where rents are cheaper. i development and it would naturally cause property prices to fall because people are not all wanting to live in one small part of the country. Tel Aviv itself is not experiencing anything that any other big city around the world like London does whereby the central areas where ordinary people once lived gets gradually more and more expensive until its only the rich who can live there and everybody else has to move further out into the suburbs. Right now the people know there is a problem but nobody has any real solutions so they are protesting and saying Bibi solve this problem for us but in reality there is no solution to lack of afordable housing in places like Tel Aviv and the solution to the housing problem long term means getting seculars off the coast and into the Galilee and Negev. Going back to the days of Yossi's socialist utopia where government is in charge rather than the free market would be a mistake the country couldn't afford in the past and certainly cannot afford in the 21st century where there is a global economy and companies have much more choices on where to invest.. This is not the arab spring where we can get rid of the dictator who has been running the country single handedly for decades and start with a fresh plate this is a specific problem which changing governments will not solve and its a problem which will take years to solve not months. Any long term solution needs to be based on a coalition of government, developers, big business, the municipalities and of course the people themselves .. the housing problem needs to be viewed as a long term national project rather than a political issue. In Tel Aviv a good start might be to redevelop the run down neighborhoods, work with the private sector to do up the old buildings, make these areas desirable but at the same time do as much as possible to keep prices down and improve transport links to make commuting easier ( Israeli's are going to have to accept long commutes eventually just as they did in the rest of the western world ). Sorry Yossi but the socialist paradise is gone for good and it would have never solved the housing problem anyway.

  • 3. 7 5
    Housing Has Already Been Provided
    • Mark Lincoln
    • 26.07.11
    • 06:21

    Israel has spent an immense fortune building housing in Judea and Samaria. Those Israelis who wish to live in Israel have simply refused to take advantage of the construction and subsidies expended in ridding the Occu. . . erh, eh, . . . Disputed territories of Arabs.

  • 2. 9 6
    Virtually all of the land that is now Israel was acquired free of charge.
    • Vlad
    • 26.07.11
    • 05:36

    Since that happened, Israel has been taking more and more Palestinians land. Considering this history, if Israelis are complaining abo0ut high housing costs, I would suggest that they are being victimized by Jewish bankers and landlords. It is hardly the first time in history that we have heard this complaint.

  • 1. 25 5
    Half the public building over the past decade has been in the West Bank - for 350,000 out of HOW many Israelis?
    • UnsavoryEcho
    • 26.07.11
    • 03:33

    Does anyone really believe that this is a coincidence? The protest needs to broaden its horizons to include the demand that its government look out for the welfare of its citizens IN ISRAEL, first, second, and third, before it even thinks about its illegal colonists living in Palestinian territory!

    • 6 0
      Housing
      • Nat
      • 26.07.11
      • 09:04

      Yossie Sarid has a very valuable point and I agree with him fully. DONT STOP the protests, it,s about time the Governmenet did something real for the people and stop trying to fool us. They dod this over and over again - look at how we get TAKEN by the banks. Yossi is from the old school who cares about this country and the people. Take head - elections will come again soon Mr. Natanyahu and then you will rest very comfortably in your fancy house, while the rest are left with their struggle.