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Israel’s Housing Crisis, Rooted in the Settlements

Not that you’d know it from the anti-‘politics’ protesters

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A protest today in Tel Aviv.(Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images)

In Haifa this morning, demonstrators blocked a major thoroughfare. The same happened in Tel Aviv, leading to scuffles with the police. In Jerusalem, law enforcement clearred protestors who were blocking all approach to the Knesset, arresting five young activists. The men and women taking to the streets are, for the most part, beginners when it comes to civil disobedience. Together with tens of thousands of their peers, mostly young Israelis in their 20s and early 30s, they have organized to protest the escalating costs of apartments in Israel’s main metropolises.

They have a point. A single room in a Tel Aviv apartment can go for as much as 3,000 shekels, or nearly $900, a hefty price for most young and struggling Israelis. The situation isn’t much better in Jerusalem, and only slightly more reasonable in Haifa and Be’er Sheva. The movement was able to recruit vast numbers in a short period of time—is there anything more visceral than real estate?—making this one of the most tempestuous moments in Israeli political history. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, no stranger to crises, cancelled his upcoming trip to Poland to try to assuage angry voters.

But Bibi has little to worry about. Despite the prognostications offered by some Israeli pundits, this isn’t Israel’s Tahrir Square moment. And the reason why is politics. “Politics,” for young Israelis of my generation, has come to mean something filthy and tainted. Theirs, the new movement’s leader insist daily, is not a “political” movement. To them, housing resides in some more high-minded sphere that has nothing to do with Israel’s polices here on earth. They are wrong.

As Israeli peace activist Dror Etkes noted in Haaretz, the government initiated the construction of about 20 percent of all new housing units built in Israel between 1994 and 2009. During the same time period, however, the government was responsible for building 48.4 percent of all residential units in the settlements. Do the math: The government cares twice as much about building homes for settlers as it does about housing young Israelis in Israel. This is particularly true when it comes to Tel Aviv: Between 2006 and 2009, not a single unit of public housing was erected in what is for many the country’s most desirable market.

Israelis enraged about the cost of housing, then, shouldn’t block roads in Haifa and Jerusalem. They should block roads in Bet El and Ofra and Kedumim and Ariel and the other settlements that continue to receive wildly disproportionate chunks of taxpayers’ money. Nobody can escape politics. And those who try are doomed only to lose at it.

Israeli Protesters Press Netanyahu for Housing [WSJ]

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shira says:

Some nonsense embodied in one article.

The problem is that there is no building for height and release of lands as the lands in Ramla (not Ramallah) and Zerifin. No problem with the settlements,I’m sorry, conflict zone (the legal terminology of “settlements”).

You think because some had never been to Israel you can use your propaganda and they would buy this?

Everyone in Israel understands that the problem is quite different.
this is why it’s not about politics.

jake says:


You do the math.

1)Most of the Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and any major city is already built up. There is no other place to grow. Tel Aviv is saturated with condos. The settlements have not been built up to capacity yet, so yea, it makes sense.

2)not everyone can afford downtown Manhattan..should there be protests there too? Gimme a break..

3)low interest rates have created a housing boom. Same with Australia, Canada, China, Germany, and other strong economies.

4)Lets say that we close up all the settlements and moved all those folks to the major areas you are talking about. I suspect that prices would sky rocket- demand would exceed supply.And then what?

And finally, I dont know what all the snark is about lately (right-wing Israelis in this morning’s piece , settlements etc) but it is the 3 weeks. Try to tone it down abit, willya.

Roni says:

NO. you do the math…
Most buildings in Israel are of three floors. On each building from 1983 and on (for security reasons)youcan build at least another 2 floors.
You can thaw out land for building the at center of Israel as Shira said (Zerifin and Tel -hashomer) and the problem resolved.

No connection to the settlements.

what would you do on the day you wouldn’t have the sattlements to blame…

Hershel (Heshy) Ginsburg says:

One thing I will grant LL is that he will never ever let any facts get in the way of a good narrative. And to ensure this sorry state of affairs he won’t even try to ascertain them.

Had he bothered, e.g., to listen to any of the radio or TV interviews with the organizers of the protests (accessible on the web) he might have learned that they emphasized over and over that the usual left-right politics has nothing to do with this, and that the protesters themselves come from across the political spectrum and all around the country.

One other fallacy: The state could have built only 100 residential units over the green line and still have built 50% of the units that were built there, and at the same time built 1000 units inside the Green Line and still have built only about 20% of the units there. What LL is doing is called misleading with statistics.

Another point – the state can builds primarily on state land and there is little if any open land of any kind in Tel Aviv. That is why the state could not have built in Tel Aviv. But when your world revolves around video games, it is easy to create virtual apartments hanging in air and assume that constitutes reality.

Here are but a few of the myriad of factors that have created the current housing mess:

> Over the past 10 years there were ~10,000 fewer units/year built than were needed.

> Most of the land in the country is state owned and managed by the Israel Lands Management Authority. They are renowned for their bureaucratic blocks in releasing land for construction.

> There was far LESS new construction initiated in Judea & Samaria than their could have been, further exacerbating supply. Prices in J&S communities near J’lem, Tel Aviv etc. have recovered from the Olso Accords War induced slump and are now going through the roof.

There is more but no space. It’s obvious that LL is so detached from Israel that he doesn’t even realize that he doesn’t know squat about what really goes on here.

J’lem / Efrata

Dave says:

“the government initiated the construction of about 20 percent of all new housing units built in Israel between 1994 and 2009. During the same time period, however, the government was responsible for building 48.4 percent of all residential units in the settlements. Do the math: The government cares twice as much about building homes for settlers as it does about housing young Israelis in Israel.”

This has to top the list of most asinine comments by LL.

There are two possibilities. Either LL is not intelligent enough to understand the fallacy, which I doubt, or he shamelessly tried to pull one over on his readers. I know misleading rhetoric is common place on the left, but to think you could get away with this one just insults our intelligence.

Badtux says:

Let us not forget that most of the existing housing in Israel was built by Palestinians, as is true of most modern buildings in the Middle East, for decades the Palestinians were the construction workforce of the Middle East. Now that Palestinians are largely locked into the world’s largest concentration camps in the Gaza Strip and West Bank and excluded from Israel by security fences, what workforce is going to build this housing that the young are demanding? Perhaps these young Israelis should be studying construction arts and preparing for a life in the building industry if they want housing, because it is clear that with increased radicalization it won’t be Palestinians doing the building. But wait, these are the same young people who whine and evade the draft because they might have to get dirty… hmm.

Too bad you get sued for even daring to criticize the settlements.

As per the whole “Not everyone can afford downtown Manhattan” line, these are students, not vainglorious middle-class schmucks. They’re not looking to live in some place nice, just some place where they can get to school without having to commute excessively at a rate that’s affordable. Odds are, the universities don’t have room on campus, so they force students out, and of course they’re not going to give them a housing stipend. My guess, these kids can’t find a decent part time job that pays them even 4000 shekels a month (and full time worker/full time student hybrids usually burn out fast). They have legitimate reasons to protest.

gladys blanche says:

I think it is time for your correspondent to stop using Tablet [or Tablet, using LL] to spread anti-religius and anti nationalist and anti Israel propoganda.
Building in the outlying areas does not impact on building in the major cities.

I cannot afford to live in Manhattan, but I can afford to live in the suburbs, which is what I do. I think young Israelis should behave the same way. Cities are either for the well-established or for the welfare recipients in modern-day society. It’s a pity that’s so, but it’s reality.

Enough with using Tablet as a podium for anti-Jewish /anti-religious / anti nationalist propoganda

pinchas says:

AS others have indicated, reading LL is a waste of time. He should stick with videogames and coffee, like the airhead he is.


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Israel’s Housing Crisis, Rooted in the Settlements

Not that you’d know it from the anti-‘politics’ protesters

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