The Yamina party on Wednesday launched its housing program at a press conference in Elkana, Samaria, with Chairwoman Ayelet Shaked, Minister Bezalel Smotrich, Rabbi Rafi Peretz, and former minister Naftali Bennett on hand.
But before we begin to tell you about the Yamina party’s innovative, realistic and extremely provocative plan to solve Israel’s housing problems at metropolitan Tel Aviv, we should explain that Samaria, which was liberated along with Judea, the Golan heights and the Gaza Strip in 1967, is as anchored in central Israel as cities like Hadera, Netanya, and Kfar Saba.
Indeed, one of the forgotten slogans that were intended to encourage young Israeli couples to settle in the territories, back when Israeli governments supported that kind of thing, suggested those settlements were “Five minutes from Kfar Saba.” Because Kfar Saba was the proverbial bedroom community outside Tel Aviv, and because they were and remain about five minutes away.
Now you know what every Israeli knows about Samaria.
“The sharp rise in housing prices in Israel’s major cities in recent years is a first-rate social and economic problem,” states the new Yamina party plan. “Young people who are ready to go to work are entitled to a realistic opportunity to purchase an apartment. Today, for the most part, this possibility is almost non-existent. Many families in the State of Israel strive to upgrade from renters to owners, and a solution that offers reasonable prices alongside proximity to metropolitan Tel Aviv (Gush Dan) is a realistic opportunity for them to improve the quality of their lives.”
The plan was conceived based on forecasts that in the coming decades the population of the State of Israel would double, from about 8 million to 16 million, alongside growth in the per capita density index, which is also on the rise and is currently considered the highest among the OECD countries (7,958 inhabitants per sq. km – 0.386 sq. mile).
These two components (population growth, increasing density) are the main determinants of astronomical housing prices in the central region. The Yamina program – housing for half a million Israelis in western Samaria, about a half hour drive from Tel Aviv – would increase the supply of apartments and lower prices.
The area in question is It’s about 8,650 acres of state-owned land, excluding areas A and B and nature preserves in Israel-owned Area C, of which 50% can be developed to create 113,000 housing units. The price per apartment will be NIS 950,000 ($270,000), compared to NIS 1.7 million ($482,000) in Gush Dan, a move which would also bring a drastic drop in real estate prices in the region.
The plan will be spread over 5 years at a rate of 22,000 housing units per year, and will be carried out by establishing a dedicated project management entity, government budgeting for infrastructure development, and the promotion of the project in the National Committee for Planning and Construction of Preferred Housing Areas.
Chairwoman Shaked said: “The various magic tricks we’ve seen in recent years – just aren’t working. The solution is simple and based on sound logic and proper economics. In order to lower prices, we believe in one solution: increase the supply. No magic will solve the problem. Only serious, thorough and in-depth work. Gush Dan is nearly as dense and expensive as New York City and it’s time to change this.”
Transport Minister Bezalel Smotrich declared that “the light rail will be extended to the Tapuach Junction,” which would add about 50 kilometers of railroad tracks and connect hundreds of thousands of Samaria Israelis to the Savidor station in bustling downtown Tel Aviv.
Education Minister Rabbi Rafi Peretz promised: “In order to come and live here at 30, they have to travel here at 16, so as part of the curriculum, students will visit heritage sites throughout Judea and Samaria.”
Former Minister Naftali Bennett explained: “The situation today is that there is no fair deal. A young couple doing everything right – serving in the army, paying taxes, serving in the reserves, working hard – still cannot survive economically in the State of Israel. This is not Zionism. It has to be fixed and it can be, it’s not a divine decree.
Peace Now is furious at the plan, and issued a response saying: “The far right presents a Price for the settler,” (a paraphrase on the failed Price for the resident program conceived by Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon [Likud] – DI).
“A month before the elections, Smotrich was reminded of the plights of housing, transportation, and the cost of living of Israeli citizens,” Peace now continued. “These cynical politicians who for a decade sat in governments and did nothing, are now seeking to extort billions for their messianic vision, while completely distorting the state’s priorities.”
Former Deputy Chief of Staff Yair Golan of the Democratic Camp, who once compared Israel today to Nazi Germany in the 1930s, declared that “the annexation has stopped crawling and has been thrown into a marathon. Under the guise of solving the housing shortage, Shaked and Smotrich are trying to take the entire State of Israel captive. The annexation of 2.5 million Palestinians and the destruction of the prospect of a political settlement – this is the real right-wing housing program.”
The 2.5 million figure is based on an estimate of the number of Palestinian ID card holders, while ignoring the emigration of at least 400,000 Arab residents of Judea and Samaria in recent years, as well as the normal death rate.