Kahlon eyes housing ministry, picks first woman candidate

Party striving for total gender equality on election list.

Dr. Yifat Sassa-Biton. (photo credit: TAMIR BARGIG)
Dr. Yifat Sassa-Biton.
(photo credit: TAMIR BARGIG)
Moshe Kahlon on Monday hinted that he would demand the Housing Ministry for his Koolanu Party in a future coalition. Speaking at a political science conference at the Western Galilee College, Kahlon said “The Koolanu Party has set itself a target: that the Israel Lands Authority will be in its hands.” The ILA’s chief is appointed by the Housing Ministry.
Just days before the last election, before Kahlon had officially split off from the Likud, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced plans to appoint him as the next ILA chief. Bayit Yehudi ended up winning the Housing Ministry in subsequent coalition talks, thwarting the plan.
Kahlon said that controlling the ILA is the only way to lower housing costs. “We have a detailed plan on how to deal with the authority and lower the price of housing,” he said.
His declaration could ease Kahlon’s way into a future coalition, regardless of who wins. Netanyahu has publicly said that he believes Kahlon’s appointment to the ILA would allow him to demonstrate consistency and the ability to take credit for any reforms.
Furthermore, keeping his eye on housing as opposed to the Finance Ministry would make it easier to work out a deal with the joint Labor-Hatnua list if they form the government. That party has already announced plans to put Manuel Trajtenberg in the Finance Ministry.
Earlier on Monday, Kahlon announced the addition of the first woman to his party list, education expert and former Kiryat Shmona deputy mayor Dr. Yifat Sassa-Biton.
The most important thing “is providing equal opportunities for every boy and girl in the Galilee, in the Negev, in an Arab, Druse, Jewish or Circassian village, regardless of their parents’ wages,” Kahlon told a Haifa press conference Monday.
“Yifat is a symbol of perseverance, of determination, of success, which all lead her and the Koolanu Party to instill in each and every child in Israel the chance to succeed and reach a better future,” he said.
Sassa-Biton, the fourth member of a list already populated by former ambassador Michael Oren and anti-poverty advocate Alon Alalouf, is currently the vice president of Ohalo College in Katzrin on the Golan Heights.
“Even in the current election campaign we’ve heard almost no reference to education, and unfortunately the emphasis is not there,” said Sassa-Bitton.
“The diplomatic and political fields are important, but they cannot be everything.”
Education, she said, is the key to socio-economic strength, and that is the key to security.
“Only quality education will lead to a reduction in gaps,” she said. Sassa-Biton received her doctorate at the University of Haifa’s School of Education and managed Kiryat Shmona’s education portfolio while serving as its deputy mayor.
During her tenure, eligibility for high school matriculation exams rose by 5%.
While Kahlon has focused on breaking up monopolies and economic reforms, Oren on diplomacy, and Alalouf on poverty, they all agree on what Israel wants its next generation to look like, a theme Sassa-Bitton echoed on Monday.
“Our job is to equip them with the right tools for the 21st century, while providing equal opportunities to all students in Israel,” she said.
Koolanu is striving for equal representation between men and women on their party list, though a spokesman said that, depending on circumstances, they may not reach that exact percentage. “Perhaps it will be 40%, perhaps it will be 60%,” he said.
The addition of a woman to the four-person list puts Koolanu roughly on par with Labor, which has yet to hold its primary, but ahead of the Likud in terms of women’s proportional representation.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may appoint a woman to one of the two slots he is permitted to fill on the Likud list after the Likud primary last week drew criticism for its male dominance. Only two women received realistic places on the list, drawing criticism from opposing political parties.