The Shekel Drops / Tel Aviv or Bust

Rising housing prices have made it hard for young couples to buy a home in central Israel, prompting some parliamentarians to propose laws to stimulate development in outlying areas.

Few young couples are actually prepared to move away from the central urban region, however - they prefer to stay close to their parents and to job opportunities, but that doesn't seem to have dampened the zeal of our legislators.

If anything, most of their proposals mainly reveal how ignorant they are about the property market. But who cares, really? The politicians figure that any bill they propose regarding more affordable home-ownership will get them headlines. Overnight they become white knights protecting dewy-eyed, homeless young couples. Suddenly they're in demand, appearing on talk shows and in the weekend press.

The public likes parliamentary initiatives that shower largesse on the kids. It's the perfect vehicle for some new, unknown lawmaker hoping to make an impression.

But make no mistake. Most of the bills, though not all, will begin and end as "legislative statements," as the former Knesset speaker Shevach Weiss called them. These bills stand absolutely no chance of actually becoming law. All they achieve is making their authors seem active. What they don't achieve is government support.

The government opposes bills that would heap goodies on first-time home buyers mainly due to the cost.

Some Knesset members, mainly from the coalition parties, may put on a show of muscle and fight for their proposals, but in most cases the battle is lost before it even begins.

Should the public be upset these bills vanish so quickly? Not at all. Most are based on the assumption that if you give young couples a price cut, they'll stampede toward the Negev or Galilee or some far corner of the country. However, experience proves that premise to be spurious. No discount or free garden gnome is going to get young couples to move there.

It's easy enough to find affordable housing on land that costs practically nothing in the less popular parts of the country. The real estate market already has the discount in place.

But people don't want to go there, that's the whole point. They want to be in central Israel.

We, if not the parliamentarians, are forced to conclude that cheap housing isn't going to solve the problems of Israel's periphery.

And the bills? They'll wind up in the Knesset garbage can until the next election approaches. Then you can expect another wave of housing initiatives.

Government and opposition alike will wave candy at the people, knowing full well that whoever forms the next administration won't be able to keep their promises.