Housing Activists: Netanyahu's Plan Is Bribery and Bid to Divide Us

Organizers of demonstration say PM is trying to split protesters by offering benefits only to students; Students' Union: We'll keep fighting.

Protesters in Tel Aviv's impromptu "tent city" housing protest dismissed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's latest plan Tuesday, saying that he was trying to create divisions within the protesters, by offering discounts only to students.

The protest, in the form of dozens of tents erected along the expensive Rothschild Boulevard, has spread to other cities across Israel, with similar tent areas popping up from Kiryat Shmona in the north to Be'er Sheva in the south.

tent city housing price protest - 16.7.11
Daniel Bar-On

One of the organizers of the demonstration said that the protesters were united and vowed Netanyahu would not be able to split them.

Netanyahu presented a plan earlier Monday in which he presented ways to solve Israel's housing crisis. He said the government will provide discounted housing for students, young couples, and newly discharged soldiers. He also promised to build new dormitories for students and to decrease rates of public transportation.

"We are continuing the struggle - the students are a part of the wide social struggle for affordable housing," the National Students' Union said in response to Netanyahu's plan.

"The prime minister is offering students an unprecedented benefits package and this is appreciated. However the students are fighting for all Israeli society and not only for themselves."

"The housing crisis in Israel is a real problem," Netanyahu said earlier Monday during a special press conference to discuss his housing plan. He said that the reason for high property prices is the shortage of housing units, whose construction is delayed by bureaucracy.

The plan, prepared by Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz calls for lowering the cost of land controlled by Israel Lands Administration by tens of percentage points and expediting permit processes, with the goal of spurring the rapid construction of more than 10,000 two-bedroom and three-bedroom housing units, mainly, but not only, in the center of the country.

The housing units that will be built will be geared toward young couples, large families, army veterans, students and families buying their first home.

Half of the proposed 10,000 housing units to be constructed would be for sale, and half would be for long-term rental. The rent would be controlled by the state or the local authority.

Housing protesters have recently been stepping up their campaigns across Israel. On Sunday, protesters blocked traffic on main roads in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Be'er Sheva, and Jerusalem protesters gathered in front of Netanyahu's residence, calling for a solution to the housing crisis.