Steinitz Surrenders To Shas

The housing ministry is planning close to 60 thousand apartments for Haredim in the periphery. The CEO of Hiddush, Uri Regev: Instead of investing in putting yeshiva students to work, the coalition is doling out a free mortgage to every yeshiva student.

Yuval Steinitz podium flickrYuval Steinitz podium flickr

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz retracted his objection to a bill proposed by Shas, which seeks to benefit homebuyers in outlying areas of the country. Tomer Avital reports in Calcalist that sources in the Knesset ascribed the bill’s approval to pressure from the haredi factions in the Knesset on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The bill, promoted in recent months by Housing Minister Ariel Attias of Shas, calls for the state to grant a loan of NIS 140,000 to young couples and a monthly subsidy of up to NIS 800 of the mortgage to anyone buying an apartment in areas designated of national priority. The interest on the loan would be 4%.

The NGO Hiddush – For Religious Freedom in Israel says that these mortgages are nothing more than a political bribe being given to the haredi Knesset factions, in view of their increased power in the coalition after the split in the Labor party. Hiddush head Rabbi Uri Regev said in response: “It was clear that the price of shrinking the coalition and increasing its dependency on the haredi parties would be paid by the taxpayer. Instead of investing in getting avrechim out to work, the coalition is handing out a free mortgage to every avrech. The mortgages with which Netanyahu, Barak, and Steinitz are buying another few months in power, our children will be paying in installments plus interest for many years to come.”

On the eve of the vote on the budget for 2011-2012, Netanyahu undertook to promote the bill, in return for Shas’ support of the budget. A short while later, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved the bill for preliminary reading in the Knesset. Steinitz refused to go along with the decision and submitted an appeal to the government. He claimed that the subsidies would cost the state some NIS 4.2 billion a year.

Steinitz reminded the government of a Bank of Israel study conducted between 1999-2001, when young couples received loans and subsidized mortgages, which found that granting benefits caused real estate prices to go up, thereby not being of any help to the buyers.

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