Head to Head / PMO Head Eyal Gabbai, Will Netanyahu's Proposals Solve the Housing Crisis?

An interview with director general of the Prime Minister's Office, Eyal Gabbai, who this week bowed to pressures from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to postpone his planned retirement by a number of weeks.

The director general of the Prime Minister's Office, Eyal Gabbai, this week bowed to pressures from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and agreed to postpone his planned retirement by a number of weeks.

Beyond the lack of a replacement, the reason for the delay is ostensibly the number of sensitive issues on his plate.

Eyal Gabbai - Archive: Emil Salman / Jini
Archive: Emil Salman / Jini

Yesterday morning, for example, Gabbai participated in the prime minister's news conference about the housing crisis, in which Netanyahu announced a plan to provide affordable housing for students, discharged soldiers and young couples via subsidies, among other measures. Immediately after it concluded, Gabbai met with the representatives of the doctors in an attempt to bring about an end to their salary dispute with the treasury.

In the past few months, Gabbai has served, together with Finance Ministry Director General Haim Shani, as co-head of the interministerial government committee on economic concentration. He also heads a committee appointed this week by Netanyahu to select a new director for the Israel Lands Administration.

Will the proposals announced by Netanyahu yesterday bring about a solution to the housing crisis?

No. The steps taken by the government for the past two years with regard to the Israel Lands Administration and the national housing committees (vadalim ), as well as other steps, together with the steps that the prime minister announced at the news conference, will lead to a mid-range solution. In another year, we'll see a drop in prices.

Why was so much time required until the prime minister's new proposals were announced?

The two significant reforms in the real estate sphere, in the Israel Lands Administration and the national housing committees, began when this government was established two years ago. We are talking about a complex process that requires legislation. In the administration, it is also necessary to reach an agreement with the employees. These things take time. Now they are ripening. We will sense them now, together with the complementary steps that the prime minister announced yesterday that are aimed at making it easier in the intermediary period and for specific populations.

Will the tent protesters accept the prime minister's words and disperse?

We are not here in order to satisfy protesters of one kind or another. The prime minister said that the distress is real and grave. His aim is to find a solution to the problem and not to the protest. The question of what the demonstrators will do is their business and theirs only. The government has to do its duty for the benefit of all of the citizens in the country.

Are you in touch with the protesters?


In the decision to cut the price of Israel Lands Administration land, you in effect broke the traditional opposition to lowering land prices in Israel.

As the prime minister stated, this is a real revolution that is taking place in so sensitive a field, the price of lands. The government body responsible for this subject worked with an eye toward increasing profits. That was an economic mishap and a social mistake. That is precisely what the prime minister corrected.

And therefore Yaron Bibi, who headed the administration, was dismissed recently...?

To the best of my knowledge, Bibi was not dismissed. Yaron did excellent work. The opposite is true. He shared these points of view and did not oppose them.

How much will the prime minister's plan cost the country?

The prime minister spoke yesterday about the revolution in reducing state revenues from the sale of land by dozens of percentage points. We renounced the concept that the value of land is important and the role of the state is to get the maximum. We are talking about losing out on hundreds of millions of shekels, and in addition, spending tens of millions of shekels more on reductions in public transportation for students. All together, we are talking about a hefty sum of money.

The talks about the prime minister's plan dragged on recently. How did you succeed in persuading the treasury to show more flexible positions?

The Finance Ministry presented its positions on a variety of subjects that arose during the talks. What the prime minister presented yesterday at the media conference was the final product of the joint work of the past few days of the Finance Ministry and the Housing and Construction Ministry. All together the results are excellent. I can only congratulate the treasury for being wise enough to understand that revolutions are required these days. These were presented, at the end of the day, by the prime minister at the news conference.

Will a solution to the housing crisis lead to a closing of the gaps in Israeli society?

Yesterday's decision related to a central market in Israel's economy and a most significant asset to the Israeli citizen - the roof over his head. The moment we bring down the price of housing significantly for the citizens of the country, their situation will improve radically. And that is one of the tools to closing gaps in society.

You met representatives of the medical association today. When will the dispute with the doctors come to an end?

There are significant gaps between the doctors and the representatives of the treasury. These gaps can't be solved in one discussion. Both sides need to return to the negotiating table, to continue talking and to bring the disagreements between them to a minimum so that it will be possible to try to bridge the gaps between them and decide.

Why are you not meeting with representative of the residents and interns?

The Israel Medical Association represents the entire public of the doctors. I don't plan to divide and rule between the populations of workers.

The prime minister appointed you at the end of last week to mediate between the Finance Ministry, the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry and the Agriculture Ministry on the subject of bringing down the price of dairy products by increasing imports.

The role of mediator is a role I have accepted in the past two years. Our aim is to make the price of milk and milk products cheaper for the consumers. We have the recommendations of the Kedmi committee, of the director general of the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry. There were also additional thoughts of the prime minister and the finance minister about increasing competition by importing more. My aim is to reach a plan that will be acceptable to all sides and that will work in the best way for the consumers, so that there will be a real and comprehensive change for a prolonged period.

When will you publish recommendations?

By the end of the week.