Shas threatens coalition over housing flap

Likud sources say Netanyahu not overly concerned about threat because Yishai has too much to lose by leaving the coalition.

Eli Yishai 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Eli Yishai 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Shas chairman Eli Yishai warned Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Tuesday that if Shas’s proposal for solving the housing shortage is not adopted, his party would leave the coalition.
Threats to leave the coalition – which were once delivered frequently by the Sephardi ultra-Orthodox party – have become increasingly rare for Shas. Yishai’s spokesman said this particular threat should be taken seriously.
“If the housing crisis is ignored, I declare that there will be a coalition crisis,” Yishai said in an interview with Ma’ariv. “We intend to present the cabinet a series of proposed solutions for the housing shortage in two weeks. If they aren’t accepted, we will immediately quit the government.”
Yishai’s spokesman declined to elaborate on what Shas’s proposal would be, beyond saying that it would eliminate bureaucracy in cases where government ministries prevent the advancement of building projects.
Likud sources said Netanyahu was not overly concerned about the threat because Yishai has too much to lose by leaving the coalition.
The sources blamed the threat on Yishai’s own political problems, including the expected return of former Shas leader Aryeh Deri.
The Likud sources said that if Yishai’s threat to leave the coalition was serious, he would not delay it for two weeks until after the Knesset’s recess begins on August 3.
Netanyahu’s own solution for solving the crisis, called the National Housing Bill, is expected to pass its final readings in the Knesset ahead of the recess. The bill passed a joint session of the Knesset Economics and Interior committees Tuesday.
The prime minister praised the members of the committees for the quick passage of the bill. He instructed Economics Committee Chairman Carmel Shama-Hacohen to expand the bill to earmark land for apartment units that would be rented for at least 10 years. The step is intended to provide affordable housing.
“The national housing law will provide a green light to expediting planning,” Netanyahu said. “In upcoming days we will complete the reforms of the Israel Lands Authority and the bill that gives a tax break from capital gains tax for housing that was changed from businesses to residential. All this was done in order to increase the available apartments and lower prices.”
MK Dov Henin (Hadash) attacked the government for not including in the bill more guarantees that affordable apartments would be built. He said the bill allowed contractors to construct luxury apartments instead of affordable housing.