Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Tent Party Housing protests - Netanyahu: Not my fault, but i'll find solution

Israel's middle class hit Tel Aviv's streets on Saturday night at the height of the tent protest. Police estimate that over 20,000 people participated in the march.

The demonstrators shouted, "Bibi, wake up! People are worth more!" Their demand was simple: affordable housing. They chanted, "An entire generation demands housing", adding, "Apartments aren’t a luxury! Capital, power, crooks!"

"People demand social justice! An entire generation demands a future. We want justice, we don’t want charity,"

Tent protest organizer Dafni Leef said, "We must stay on the streets. This is the people's protest. A roof should a basic right. We're the nation's foundation, and we must demand our rights."

Following a week of tent protests in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, nearly a thousand demonstrators furious over the soaring cost of housing marched to the Knesset on Sunday night with a dozen tents hoisted on their shoulders.

Chanting “the nation demands social justice!” the demonstrators packed up their temporary camp-out in Kikar Tzahal, next to the Old City Walls, and moved their tents next to the entrance to the Knesset.

Prime Minister Netanyahu on Sunday reassured those protesting against soaring housing prices that as early as this week, a series of steps will be taken to reduce costs and simplify planning and building procedures.

“Apartments are too expensive because there are not enough of them. There are not enough apartments because a government monopoly holds more than 90 percent of the land in Israel, and it is not releasing it,” Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting.
“First of all, it is not releasing it for planning because there are planning committees, the most cumbersome in the Western world or nearly so, and it takes five or more years to plan an apartment in Israel.

“It is not releasing it because when an apartment is planned, in order to market it, there is another cumbersome body, called the Israel Lands Authority, which releases it very slowly, at very high prices,".

“To change this, it is necessary to bring about a fundamental change, to break the government monopoly, to simplify the planning and building committees and to simplify the ILA and change it into a body that markets the land of the State of Israel for the Israeli people".

“This week, we will do two major things. One, we will pass the ILA reform and the reform of the planning and building committees, so that the ‘supertanker’ may take off. It hasn’t yet and this will be the first thing, The second thing, we will take a series of focused steps to help young couples, students and other needy populations in the next one to 1.5 years until the major increases in housing come into force.”
President Shimon Peres addressed the growing housing protest during the State ceremony honoring Israel's deceased presidents and premiers.
"A leader is tested in hard times, when he is required to make hard decisions. He may see his supporters fidget uncomfortably, he may hear the disappointed voiced from his own camp, and the cold math may lead him to doubt whether he can raise a majority".
"In such a time he is tested – does he lead, or does he follow?" Peres said, hinting to Netanyahu's handling of the affordable housing protest.