Lapid Associate Holds Meet on Home Prices, Despite Not Having Official Position

Several weeks ago the civil service commissioner rejected Lapid’s pressure to appoint his associate Uri Shani to head a newly formed housing directorate within his ministry.

Yair Lapid associate Uri Shani met with Israel Lands Administration Chairman Bentzi Lieberman last week to discuss a plan to reduce home prices, even though Shani does not yet hold any official government position.

Shani and Lieberman discussed a committee tasked with reducing home prices that is due to start work in August. They met at a coffee shop in Ramat Aviv. Also in attendance was Lapid’s assistant, Naama Schultz. Finance Minister Lapid himself sat with his sister at a neighboring table and exchanged words with the party.

Shani is set to receive the approval of the attorney general and the public service commissioner to receive a government appointment. Associates of Lapid say the approval was already given, but is being delayed because Shani needs to sign a conflict-of-interest agreement. But Public Service Commission sources said last week that no request was ever submitted regarding Shani.

The Finance Ministry stated in response that Shani’s appointment as Lapid’s housing adviser was already in the approval process.

Shani is currently CEO of the publicly traded real estate company Polar, which develops commercial real estate in Israel and abroad. In the three years Shani has been at the company’s helm, it has generated losses of NIS 200 million and failed to meet its obligations. Shani received NIS 4.5 million in pay over that period.

This is Lapid’s second attempt to have Shani appointed to a senior position. Several weeks ago the civil service commissioner rejected Lapid’s pressure to appoint Shani to head a newly formed housing directorate within his ministry, and to give him the salary and terms of a ministry director general.

Now, says a source close to Lapid, Shani is looking to take on the role without pay.

In February, Polar’s board of directors granted Shani permission to participate in the coalition negotiating team on behalf of Lapid as a half-time job. In accordance, his salary as CEO was halved for that period. Shani later announced that he would be stepping down as CEO at the end of the year.

In the 1990s, Shani was bureau chief for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. He also was CEO of Shari Arison’s real estate company Shikun & Binui, and managed Arcadi Gaydamak’s dealings in Israel.
 

Nir Keidar