Students burst into Knesset c'tee meeting, break glasses

Finance Committee rejects and drastically changes government Israel Lands Authority reform bill; MK Ariel calls for probe into housing crisis.

Knesset session 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Knesset session 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A group of university students interrupted a Knesset Finance Committee meeting in Ramat Gan on Sunday, as part of the current protests against housing prices.
The group of 15 members of the National Union of Israeli Students burst into the meeting, in which MKs discussed the Israel Lands Authority (ILA) reform, and said: "This discussion is irrelevant to renters' troubles."
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The students also broke glasses, imitating Greek protesters who smashed plates.
"What happened in Greece will soon happen in Israel," they claimed.
The Finance Committee refused to authorize the ILA reform bill as the government proposed it, saying that the bill will not help lower housing prices. Instead, two parts of the bill, which are meant to provide short-term solutions to the crisis, will be brought to a vote by the Knesset.
The first part offers benefits for owners who sell as residences, homes that were previously converted into offices. The second is an extension of the time period after which a home can be sold without any tax liabilities for capital gains on real estate from four years to six years.
Committee Chairman MK Moshe Gafni (UTJ) explained that these steps will "help solve the housing crisis." On one hand, he said, the steps "will encourage the sale of homes that were turned into offices, while giving business owners that used those offices time to find other options. On the other hand, it will encourage those who own homes as investments to hurry and sell them by 2012, because afterward they will have to wait six and not four years until they can sell [the properties] without paying capital gains taxes."
At the beginning of the meeting, MKs expressed outrage at the original version of the bill, which they called overly complex and irrelevant to current problems.
Shas MK Amnon Cohen called for the committee to "send the law back to the government" because it "taxes Israeli citizens instead of promoting new construction."
MK Ronit Tirosh (Kadima) pointed out that "the law will not be implemented until 2013, anyway, and MKs need more time to understand it and its future ramifications."
She also said that "the law does not solve the housing crisis. There are real solutions to the housing crisis that are simple and not complicated, like giving loan guarantees for homes purchased by young couples, without interest."
Gafni said "the law is indeed overly complicated and requires intense and continuous study," telling representatives of the Finance Ministry that they "have a talent for making bombastic announcements that are not connected to the bills [they] propose."
"If your intention is to raise taxes and the state's income from taxes, I am not with you," Gafni announced. "If your goal is to promote solutions for the housing crisis, then I will help you."
Also on Sunday, MK Uri Ariel (National Union) asked Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin to establish a parliamentary inquiry committee that would investigate the housing crisis.
"The Knesset must decisively discuss the real problems that arose, and give the market short-term medicine and long-term, complex solutions," Ariel said.
He added that the committee should include representatives from every party in the Knesset, "because this problem is not political and crosses party lines," Ariel explained.
Last week, Ariel suggested that the housing crisis was caused by the settlement construction freeze.
"For 10 months, a flourishing and attractive real-estate market was frozen," he explained. "If the prime minister really wants to solve the problem for his citizens, tomorrow he will authorize 7,000 apartments in Judea and Samaria. That is the real solution."