Yisrael Beytenu has not succeeded in its goal of blocking extremist Arab MKs from the Knesset, but the faction did win a symbolic victory against Arab legislators.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s faction split up with the Likud a week ago and needed a new home in the Knesset. The room it was given on Monday belonged until last week to United Arab List-Ta’al, the faction chaired by MK Ahmed Tibi.
The change happened for technical reasons. The faction rooms are allocated by size.
After the split, Yisrael Beytenu has 11 MKs. Tibi’s faction, which has four, moved to a smaller room.
Yisrael Beytenu lawmakers celebrated their success in expelling the Arab MKs from the faction room.
“The transfer was successful,” Liberman joked.
Yisrael Beytenu faction chairman Robert Ilatov called the takeover of the room “a nice start.” MK Shimon Ohayon, who is a Bar-Ilan University professor, took a historical perspective.
“The struggle with them has always been territorial,” he said.
Tibi said Liberman talking about transferring Arabs did not surprise him.
“As usual, when the struggle is over his seat, Liberman is a big hero,” he said mockingly.
United Arab List leader Ibrahim Sarsour said Yisrael Beytenu had asked for the room at the start of the current Knesset despite its partnership with the Likud. Tibi and Sarsour fought for the room at the time and won, but they had to give up the fight on Monday.
“We stopped Liberman from taking it before, but now it’s his right,” Sarsour conceded. “He got the room, but he won’t succeed in expelling us from the Knesset and our homeland.”
AHMED TIBI (Knesset) A-G won’t strike down Lapid’s zero-VAT proposal Professional considerations for removal of 18% tax for first-time home-buyers can’t supplant legal ones, says Weinstein’s deputy • By NIV ELIS The attorney-general will not “veto” Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s bill to cancel the 18-percent VAT for some first-time home-buyers, Deputy Attorney-General Avi Licht told the Knesset Finance Committee on Wednesday.
“Opponents of the law often confuse professional considerations about the effectiveness of the law with legal, constitutional considerations,” Licht told the committee, saying that broad condemnation from economists and ministry professionals were not enough to force the bill’s retraction.
The bill – which the government’s top economic adviser, Bank of Israel Gov.
Karnit Flug, opposes – is aimed at easing the high cost of housing for young, middle-class couples. Economists, however, have argued that it will not affect the price of housing, which has nearly doubled in the past seven years, and may even push it up by creating greater demand. Contractors and construction companies would gobble up a considerable portion of the benefit, they argue, while costing the government significant funds.
Former Finance Ministry chief economist Michael Sarel, who resigned in protest over the bill when it was proposed in March, estimated that it could eventually cost the country NIS 50 billion.
The bill had faced legal challenges for making the benefits more easily obtainable for those who had served in the army or national service, effectively barring Arabs and most ultra-Orthodox from participating.
While veterans will be able to apply the benefit to apartments costing up to NIS 1.6 million, the rest will only be able to use it for homes up to NIS 950,000.
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein had said an earlier version of the bill, which put the maximum price for non-servers even lower, would not pass muster at the Supreme Court. Licht said the current threshold of NIS 950,000 covered 60% of apartments in haredi areas.
Still, a broad swath of the committee from across the political spectrum raised objections to the bill.
“It’s difficult to give legal priority for products in short supply to those who have served,” said Likud MK Carmel Shama-Cohen. “The housing crisis touches everyone, just like life-saving medicine, food products, etc.”
Bayit Yehudi MK Zvulun Kalfa said the plan did not help people in the periphery because it did not boost the level of construction there, while Hatnua MK Eliezer Stern argued that the law would be more efficient if it gave grants or partial reimbursements to those who served, since that would help them claim a greater portion of the benefit than the VAT scheme would.
Last week, the Knesset’s legal adviser said the law, which has already passed its first reading, would need to be significantly amended in the Finance Committee if it were to stand a chance against a challenge in the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, Interior Committee chairwoman Miri Regev (Likud) said she had persuaded the Finance Ministry to allocate an additional NIS 1.5b. for public housing as part of an affordable- housing bill