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Netanyahu’s economic adviser to run in Likud primaries

Avi Simhon claims party ‘can completely stop the rise in prices’ if it returns to power; says he was never tasked with tackling soaring housing costs

Avi Simhon attends a conference in Jerusalem, December 8, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Avi Simhon attends a conference in Jerusalem, December 8, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

An economic adviser to opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu announced Saturday that he will seek a spot on the Likud party’s electoral slate in the upcoming elections.

In a television interview, Avi Simhon said he would focus on cost of living issues if elected, hitting on many of the same themes that Netanyahu highlighted in the launch of his campaign this week.

“Together with Netanyahu I built a plan for lowering real estate prices. I believe that very quickly — and I mean within months — we can completely stop the rise in prices,” Simhon told Channel 12 news.

Simhon, a professor at Hebrew University who served as head of the National Economic Council when Netanyahu was prime minister, said he told the former premier about his political aspirations, but did not court his support.

“I never asked anyone to help me. I never had a patron. I didn’t ask [Netanyahu] for a promise of support,” he said.

“I still say what I say because I think that it can help the Israeli people, the State of Israel — not for one person or another,” Simhon added. “It’s true that I worked a lot and very closely with Netanyahu, but I didn’t work for him.”

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu hails the collapse of the Bennett-Lapid coalition, at the Knesset in Jerusalem on June 20, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Asked in the interview why he did not focus more on lowering housing costs before Netanyahu was replaced as prime minister last June, Simhon cited the coronavirus.

“A year ago we were busy with the biggest crisis since the State of Israel was founded and I think we were very successful in dealing with the crisis,” said Simhon, who appeared regularly on television to defend Netanyahu’s economic response as premier to the pandemic.

Simhon said he was never previously tasked with addressing housing costs, but insisted his plan with Netanyahu would stop surging prices if Likud returns to government after the November 1 election.

A construction site of a new residential neighborhood in Kfar-Yona in the Sharon area, August 8, 2019. (Gili Yaari / Flash90)

Following the collapse of prime minister Naftali Bennett’s disparate ruling coalition, the Knesset voted to disperse on Thursday, with Yair Lapid becoming Israel’s 14th premier at midnight between Thursday and Friday.

Recent polls have suggested another close election battle between parties supporting and opposing Netanyahu.

Whereas Netanyahu and his allies (Likud, Religious Zionism, Shas and United Torah Judaism) won 52 seats in the March 2021 elections that led to the Bennett-Lapid coalition, more recent polls have shown the Netanyahu-led bloc now rising to 58-60 seats in the 120-member house, on the cusp of a majority. Together with the Yamina party — now led by Ayelet Shaked rather than Bennett — Netanyahu could clinch a majority for a narrow, right-wing coalition.

However, current political alliances may shift, parties could merge or drop out of the race, and new parties could join it. Furthermore, several parties are polling close to the 3.25% threshold for Knesset representation and may fail to pass it, potentially shaking up the political landscape.

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