Text size

The young people protesting on Rothschild Boulevard are afraid that life will leave them behind. That is why they are not merely looking for available housing and cheap cottage cheese. They want a complete revolution. They want a general change in the regime, something along the lines of "liberty, equality, fraternity." To that end, they are prepared to demonstrate on Rothschild Boulevard for many more weeks and the authorities are very much afraid of this possibility. But meanwhile, the more they protest and shout, the more they are able to improve the lot - of the Shas voters.

Such is our political reality. Kadima can't be heard, Meretz is shouting, Labor is dozing, and the activists of Shas are reaping the benefits. Only this week, Shas leader Eli Yishai twice threatened to cause a government crisis, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scared.

Yishai says that, heaven forbid, it is not that he wants a crisis: "I don't want an upheaval, but I want solutions. I don't like to threaten, but if there is no choice there will be a political crisis. The young couples of the country don't have to suffer because of bureaucratic obstructions or because the state wants to earn a little more money," he says.

You can read that and not believe your eyes. How much impudence is required in order to put together all those words? After all, Shas has been part of the flesh and blood of the government for 27 years already (except for short intervals ) and Eli Yishai himself has been a minister in the various governments for 15 years. On top of that, the very same Shas and the very same activists have held the Interior Ministry portfolio for years and Yishai himself has been minister of the interior for the past two and a half years. So how can he talk about "bureaucratic obstructions" when the ministry that he heads is the main "bureaucratic obstruction?" After all, it is the one that has to approve construction plans and it is the one that is responsible for planning construction throughout the country. How is it possible that it both creates the obstructive bureaucracy and also complains about it?

The Minister of Housing and Construction, Ariel Atias, is at his side and he too is from Shas. He too is a champion at rolling his eyes. He is the minister who is in charge of the Israel Lands Administration which is the last dinosaur that obstructs, holds back and raises the price of all the housing in Israel. We are referring to an organization that holds 93 percent of the lands in this country and is not prepared to release them at an appropriate pace even if a loaded revolver is held to its head.

The system of Attias' administration is to release a bit of land, less than required, and in this way to cause prices to go up, and then to rake in huge profits from the public. That is what Yishai is referring to when he says the problem is that the state wants to make "a little more money" from the sale of land, and that he opposes this. But Atias is responsible for this cynical policy that raises the price of land. So whom exactly is Yishai complaining about? About his colleague with whom he shares a party and ideology? Does he think that we are complete idiots?

In order to cause the price of land to drop, Atias would have to market enough land to build 50,000 to 60,000 apartments every year. In this way there would be a surplus in the supply, the price of land would drop and so would the price of apartments.

However Atias wants to help his voters. He is taking advantage of the housing protest and demanding that Netanyahu expand the "Diyur Lamishtaken" program. This is nothing but a sophisticated way of selling cheap apartments to his voters. True, he says the tender is open to all, but in practice there are "criteria" for distributing the cheap apartments. Thirty percent are earmarked for families with seven or more children, and another 30 percent for those who have four to six children. This means that the majority will be given to the ultra-Orthodox population. And indeed, as soon as there is an ultra-Orthodox majority in a certain building, the secular population will not dare to apply for the tender. The elevators in the building will not operate on the Sabbath and the neighborhood will be closed to vehicular traffic. Therefore the actual result is that the people who will benefit from this will be the Shas people.

Yishai says: "I want to cry about what the youngsters in the protest tents have to go through." But instead of him crying, it would be more appropriate for the youngsters to cry. To cry about the fact that they are being used, that Netanyahu's fear of a political crisis is being exploited to transfer another few thousand cheap apartments to the Shas voters.