It will be the shortest political appointment in history. Just as it came into the world, so it will vanish. With the same haste it was presented in a panic to the public, it will be forgotten. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sees votes slipping from his grasp and is prepared to do anything to get them back, including making the appointment/non-appointment of outgoing Communications and Social Affairs Minister Moshe Kahlon to the post/non-post of chairman of the Israel Lands Committee.
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Kahlon could have been appointed housing and construction minister in a Netanyahu government – assuming Netanyahu wins the election. He could have been appointed to any other position he chose, and that isn’t because Netanyahu respects him. He doesn’t respect him all that much. But Kahlon is one of only two Mizrahi Likud ministers and Netanyahu fears revenge from North African voters at the polling stations. There is no logic to being appointed the chairman of the Lands Administration board, at the rank of a senior official, when you could be appointed the minister of housing, who by law also serves as chairman of the board.
So what we have here is purely a campaign ploy so that someone “social” would stand beside the prime minister in a photograph full of false smiles. Poor Kahlon had to cooperate with Netanyahu, just as he had to appear in Likud campaign ads and laud the prime minister as the person who is “defending the Jewish people.” After all, if he really did respect Netanyahu, he would have stayed in his government and gotten an upgrade.
It is amusing to read Netanyahu’s announcement to the effect that “Together with Minister Kahlon, we will lower housing prices the way we lowered mobile phone prices.” What is he thinking: that we are stupid? There is no connection at all between the two. Reducing mobile phone prices was easy and simple. It just took bringing a few more companies into the industry, and the prices went down. There weren’t any strong and organized unions to be faced down – just two or three tycoons without any real power.
But at the Israel Lands Administration the story is completely different. At the administration, there a strong union and the Histadrut Labor Federation is in control and isn’t going to let the board chairman do whatever he wants. At the administration, there are also the kibbutzes, the moshavs, the farmers and all the big, wealthy contractors who hold huge amounts of land. They have tremendous interest in land prices being high. At the administration, control is in the hands of those who believe land shouldn’t be sold at all and the state should hold it forever. But without a massive release of land and its full sale to the public, there will be no reduction in prices.
Netanyahu knows that Kahlon is not the man who will act to sell all the land held by the administration to citizens of the country, that this is the right and quickest way to reduce the prices of land and that housing price would also subsequently fall. Even in communist China, they long ago abandoned their equivalent of the Israel Lands Administration, and the government began selling land to citizens. But we are more communist, as it were, than even the Chinese.
The administration isn’t going anywhere. Kahlon’s appointment is just for Election Day, just for 36 hours. After the election, it will fade away as speedily as it appeared. Kahlon, after all, is leaving soon for studies in the United States and when he gets back no one will remember this campaign promise. The bearskin will already have been divvied up among all the coalition parties and the Housing and Construction Ministry will remain in the hands of the Shas party or will move over to the Likud party. Whoever is appointed Housing Minister will not agree in any way, shape or form to give up the bulk of his power: the Israel Lands Administration. After all, without the administration he is an empty vessel.
So what we have here is nothing more than hot air – the shortest appointment in history.