PM cancels trip to Poland to deal with housing crisis

After receiving praise from Netanyahu for work toward resolving housing crisis, Steinitz says he "hasn't forgotten about the people."

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN, JPOST.COM STAFF
July 25, 2011 20:50
2 minute read.
Binyamin Netanyahu

Binyamin Netanyahu 521. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Domestic economic issues trumped diplomacy on Monday, with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu – in a rare move -- announcing he was postponing a trip to Poland Wednesday to deal with the housing crisis.

A statement issued by the Prime Minister's Office said Netanyahu pushed off his trip to Warsaw to "remain in the country and focus on passing legislation having to do with housing reform, and other steps for students, demobilized soldiers and young couples."

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Netanyahu had originally planned to go to both Poland and Hungary, but canceled the Hungary leg of the trip because of "logistical problems." One of the purposes of the planned trip was to continue lobbying EU countries against supporting a Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN in September.

Earlier Monday, Netanyahu praised party members for passing housing reform legislation in a joint session of the Knesset Economics and Interior Committees, speaking at a Likud faction meeting on Monday.

Thanking the entire faction for helping find solutions, he singled out Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, who he said, "always carries the weight of the economy."

The results of Steinitz's work prove it, Netanyahu said, pointing to economic growth and "possibly the lowest unemployment in the nation's history." Addressing the finance minister, Netanyahu added, "Yuval, you have an important part in the economy doing so well. All objective people can see you're doing well."

Being finance minister, he said, "is a difficult job." When the job is done well, however, "you see the results."

Steinitz also addressed the housing crisis on Monday, saying "I haven't forgotten about the people."

While touting the recent overall growth in the Israeli economy and a reduction in unemployment, Steinitz admitted that "there is a real housing crisis" and noted that Israelis are having trouble paying their bills at the end of the month, in an interview with Channel 2.

"The problem is nationwide," the finance minister said, "People are living in garages and basements ... and they can't pay their rent."

Previewing some of the measures the government plans to present in the Knesset on Tuesday, Steinitz said, "We will present meaningful steps for students. We plan on building thousands of apartments for students."

"These [won't just] be cheap apartments for students but will also allow [the students] to leave their current apartments, opening them up for other people." The finance minister added that access to public transportation would be a part of the plan.


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