Meretz Vows to Make 'Right to Housing' a Basic Law

Left-wing party presents economic platform that guarantees social rights, including the right to housing, in a basic law, giving it constitutional status.

Lior Dattel
Raz Smolsky
Ora Coren
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Meretz leader Zahava Gal-On.Credit: Nir Keidar
Lior Dattel
Raz Smolsky
Ora Coren

The chairwoman of the left-wing Meretz party, Zahava Gal-On, on Monday in Tel Aviv presented her party’s economic platform in the run-up to the March 17 Knesset election. The platform, “Bringing Back the Welfare State,” calls for guaranteeing social welfare rights, including the right to housing, in a basic law, giving it constitutional status.

The program also calls for building 100,000 apartments in city centers within a year in order to boost the supply of urban housing, and penalizing developers who purchase state land without building on it in a timely manner.

On the education front, the plan provides for a gradual extension of the school day to 4 P.M., including a hot meal for students. A law providing for a longer school day was passed in 1997 but not implemented, and most schoolchildren can be home in time for lunch.

Meretz said that if its platform were implemented in full the average household would save each month 300 shekels in school expenses, 70 shekels on their water and electricity bills, 130 shekels on communications costs, 180 shekels on health care, 150 shekels on food and 300 shekels on housing costs, among other savings. The party said Israeli Arabs and ultra-Orthodox Jews could expect to benefit particularly significantly.

The estimated cost of the program is 26.5 billion shekels ($6.8 billion), including 6.5 billion shekels to reform the National Insurance Institute’s benefits system. The party said funding for its program would come in part as the result of reforms to the law to encourage corporate investment, from increases in corporate tax revenues from big companies, from the introduction of a new tax bracket for extremely high earners and additional taxation of capital gains. It is also to come from curbing supplemental funding for defense and a halt to exceptional government funding to West Bank settlements, the party said.

“After 12 years of government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister and finance minister, he has destroyed the economy, has seen only to his associates and has not gone head-to-head with the major establishments, the settlement establishment, the establishment of the tycoons and holders of capital ... If Netanyahu is prime minster again, the situation will only get worse,” Gal-On said.

Appearing with Gal-On at the news conference where the platform was presented was former Finance Ministry Accountant General Yaron Zelekha, who said that Meretz was the only Israeli political party that “has fought everywhere without flinching and has [refrained from] cooperating” with big business.

The platform also calls for strict enforcement of antitrust provisions relating to the supermarket chains in order to reduce food prices costs.